The Great Divide in my Heart

For those of you who know me personally you would know that I really struggled through my bible college years… and I mean struggle.

Every year a new intake of students would enter in the college and every year the students who have been around the longest would have to help integrate the newbies, or at least walk them around the place and answer they’re questions. I never did any of those things well!

One year all of us more experienced students were standing in the cafe which overlooked a large grassy area flanked by very tall palm trees and the lecture halls. The new students came out of one of the introductory lecture across that grassy area to meet with us. I will never forget one student going along to each of us asking us how long we had been there. The answer would always be two, three or four years at most. This day the new student finally got to my place in line. I looked at him and said ‘see that largest tree down there towering 60 feet into the air. I remember Jim Gibson our theology lecturer tripping over that tree back in the day when we were allowed to kick the ball around at lunch time’. All of them turned and looked at me with a look which to say ‘man how dumb must this guy be?’ How can he still be here after all of these years?

No one knew though I had to work to pay my way through college. No one knew or understood I was also working within a church in a very big and demanding ministry. No one knew either that before I went to college I did not even know the English alphabet! In fact I learnt Greek at the same time I learnt English. And no it is not because I came from a foreign land, it is simply because education for me when I was growing up was not a priority!

But the truth of the matter was that it didn’t take me so long to complete college because of those circumstances, but simply because I never felt like I fitted in.

Ever since I first encountered Jesus I wanted to tell as many people as I could about him. So I went off to college to be a minister. Thinking that if I was a minister that would be all I would do… tell others of Jesus!

How mistaken was I… I was training to do something which I was not really sure I wanted to do or become. I looked around at many of the other students and what they were becoming and I was not on board with it.

As I sit back and think about my experience at the college one experience I think I will carry with me to the day I die was also at one of these introductory lectures or information days. The new students were given information about a part of the college requirements called ‘Week of E’ or week of evangelism. Each year all of the students would go out in mission teams into Baptist Churches and supposedly do evangelism. One of these new students raised his hand and asked of the principle, ‘Sir, how will this week interfere with our studies?’

I nearly choked, I think I snorted! ‘How will this interfere with my studies?’ Now that is an example of paradigms clashing! I was asking how ‘would these studies interfere with my evangelism’.

Thankfully for me I was a thrown a life line by a man who also seemed at times to be out of place. His name was Jim Gibson an evangelist, who was also the theology lecturer. In fact I think Jim was the last evangelist ordained by the Baptist Union of Queensland many many years ago.

Jim talked and modelled the things I wanted to do, how to win people for Jesus!

Hanging around Jim just intensified my passion for evangelism. I became more dogmatic in my views, and even once was overlooked for a ministry position because I was considered to ‘evangelistic’. How is that even possible?

I too was labelled by some as an evangelist. And I was more than happy to wear that badge, with honour too!

But something was not quite right.

I have never lost that passion for evangelism, I may have calmed down somewhat and have developed some manners over the years, but my love for all things evangelism still keeps me up at night and literally drives me nuts wanting more.

A few years ago I was in Chicago for a ‘Internet Evangelism’ conference a pet hobby… I had a chance to in my very tight schedule to visit the ‘Billy Graham Museum of Evangelism’.

What a unbelievable experience it was for me, I was the only one there! Oh I should mention that it cost me $200 in cab fares. It was the only way I could get there and back in time. By the time I made my way around the great display you could have lead me to Christ! I was a sobbing mess. I stood behind Billy Graham’s first crusade pulpit, the one he used when hundred’s of thousands of people first came to know Jesus.

I prayed ‘Lord do it again’, over and over again, they were the only words I could utter. Do it again Lord and let me be part of it.

I came back home to my church and thought alright this is it. I prepared a sermon series like no other! I knew my material word for word. I prayed constantly ‘do it again Lord’. This was going to decide my fate. If people came to know Jesus I would pursue a life of that of a ‘itinerant evangelist’. If not I would resign myself, yes I used the word ‘resign’, I really did not like being a normal pastor.

I was ready… the series came and went… the number of people saved? Not a single soul!

It was a gut wrenching experience, it felt as though a part of me was dead. But it was a deal God and I made, so I stopped trying to be like Billy Graham and started rediscovery what is meant to be Dean Thomas.

Man… am I glad I did. I have never been more successful in ministry now! God has been good to me, He has enabled me to minister not as an evangelist but as a Christian who serves and loves Him but who also gets to do the work of an evangelist.

My passion for evangelism is stronger today than it was even all those years ago preaching that series flop.

You might be wondering what is the point in telling you all of this?

Well today started just like any other beginning of the week for me. I was once again feeling frustarted… used… inadequate… and longing for something so much more in my own ministry… I want to make such a difference… I want to see God ‘do it again’!

But then I heard those words again which I know all too well from Mark 3:14

He appointed twelve that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons

It doesn’t matter what am I am… pastor… evangelist… teacher… luny… it doesn’t matter how powerful or how powerless I am… I am called to be with Him!

Lord do it again… do it again… not because I want to experience something wonderful… not becasue Ihave a selfish desire to speak to millions with power… or to see demons tremble… but do it again simply because you are God! I want to be with you… whereever the road leads me!

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