Is America A Christian Nation, by David Barton

This week we are still looking at July 4th, and the founding of our nation.
We’re going to be asking a specific question today too, is this a Christian nation? Is it because you weigh Christians against non-Christians. You be thinking about this for a few minutes and we’ll see if I can share information that will help you know today whether or not we are.

If you ask many young folks, and some of us older ones who have forgotten some of our history, we forget what July 4th is about. Was it after the Revolutionary War and Washington stood on some platform declaring us a nation. NO!!
Was it after all our founding documents were in place and we became the established nation? NO

When a new business is opened, they get all their permits, build the building, put in all the fixtures, train their staff, advertise, open and have a grand opening. Did that happen for our nation in some way? NO!!

What did happen?
July 4th, is literally when we declared war on Great Britan. It wasn’t the end of the war when all the treaties were signed and the nation was set up. It was “we the people” who came across the Atlantic, giving up families and friends, businesses and all the rest to have an opportunity to be a Christian and worship without persecution that existed in Europe and even England.
It was a hope that this would be a nation to show the world how to do it right, by being a City on a Hill– shining the message of Jesus Christ.

So July 4th doesn’t represent a finished product, but the onset of men resolved to provide something for future generations. You are here because of them. If you go to church today or if you choose not to, it’s because those men on July 4th, declared We the People want our freedom and we officially separate ourselves from the rule of tyrants.

So in school, if your children are even taught about the war, they won’t read the whole story- or the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say.
They won’t hear that it was because a group of colonist wanted a small central government that simply held things together. They wanted a government ruled by “We the People”, A government that provided and guaranteed the freedoms they gave up everything for— to come to this country and that was freedom to worship as they wanted.
They established a government that not only provided those freedoms, but promoted them. The Bible was the basis of all our founding documents. The majority of the quotes of our founders was either directly out of the Bible 35%, or quoting men who taught out of the Bible. The Bible the book taught in schools. The Philidelphia Primer, one of our first textbooks teaching students to spell and read had more Bible verses than your child’s Sunday School material.
The men elected to offices were Christians and John Jay, our first Supreme Court Justice who helped in the writing of these founding documents said essentially, they are setting up a government that can only be understood by Christians and only Christians should be elected to office.
In other words, only through the eyes of a Christian, who reads the Bible and understands it can our founding documents be understood.
John Jay is saying, you can’t take an athiest Supreme Court justice and expect them to interrupt the Constitution or any other document. Only a Christian can understand the heart of our founding documents and properly interrupt them to run things.

Somewhere we have gotten off track in America.
We the People and especially We God’s People have given our nation over to pagans and expected a good outcome.
We have to understand, We the People and especially We God’s People have to begin declaring Independence again. We have to begin declaring the rights afforded us by our founders. We have to pray, engage and be a part of the system. There is no place to opt out of it.

In America, the people writing our history books and text books are leaving out anything and everything that pertains to Christianity, the reason our nation was founded and the strong faith of early founding fathers.
You no longer hear– the first book used to teach reading and writing in our schools was the Bible.
You no longer hear– Congress ordered the first Bibles for our nation.
You no longer hear how the Bible was used to shape every founding document from our Constitution to the laws that govern our land.
Why is Sunday the day we take off, not Friday, or Saturday.
These writers are called revisionist. Only if you can change our history can you change the course of our future. Revisionist are intent on doing that. But on this day we want to ask the question, are we a Christian nation.

Today we want to examine some statements by previous presidents, legislatures, and courts (as well as by current national Jewish spokesmen) about America being a Christian nation. These declarations from all three branches of government are representative of scores of others and therefore comprise only the proverbial “tip of the iceberg.”

Defining a Christian Nation
Contemporary critics who say that America is not a Christian nation always refrain from offering any definition of what the term “Christian nation” means. So today we want to first define it and then form an opinion on the basis of our foundation.

Contrary to what critics imply, a Christian nation is not one in which all citizens are Christians, or the laws require everyone to adhere to Christian theology, or all leaders are Christians, or any other such superficial measurement. As Supreme Court Justice David Brewer (1837-1910) explained:

In what sense can [America] be called a Christian nation? Not in the sense that Christianity is the established religion or that the people are in any manner compelled to support it. On the contrary, the Constitution specifically provides that “Congress shall make no law establishing or prohibiting a religion. Neither is it Christian in the sense that all its citizens are either in fact or name Christians.
On the contrary, all religions have free scope within our borders. Numbers of our people profess other religions, and some reject all. Nor is it Christian in the sense that a profession of Christianity is a condition of holding office or otherwise engaging in public service, or essential to recognition either politically or socially. In fact, the government as a legal organization is independent of all religions. Nevertheless, we constantly speak of this republic as a Christian nation – in fact, as the leading Christian nation of the world. 1

So, if being a Christian nation is not based on any of the above criterion, then what makes America a Christian nation? According to Justice Brewer, America was “of all the nations in the world . . . most justly called a Christian nation” because Christianity “has so largely shaped and molded it.” 2

Constitutional law professor Edward Mansfield (1801-1880) agrees

In every country, the morals of a people – whatever they may be – take their form and spirit from their religion. For example, the marriage of brothers and sisters was permitted among the Egyptians because such had been the precedent set by their gods, Isis and Osiris. So, too, the classic nations celebrated the drunken rites of their god Bacchus.
The Turk has become lazy and inert because dependent upon Fate, as taught by the Koran.
In France there arose philosophers [e.g. Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Helvetius, etc.] taught that nation there was no God and no religion. The result was that the nation was thrown into chaos where there was no law and no morals. . . .

But in the United States, Brewer says, Christianity is the original, spontaneous, and national religion. 3

Founding Father and U. S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall agreed:

Christianity is the religion that shaped America and made her what she is today. In fact, historically speaking, it can be irrefutably demonstrated that Biblical Christianity in America produced many of the cherished traditions still enjoyed today, including:
A republican rather than a theocratic form of government;
The institutional separation of church and state (as opposed to today’s enforced institutional secularization of church and state);
Protection for religious toleration and the rights of conscience, a distinction between theology and behavior, thus allowing the incorporation into public policy of religious principles that promote good behavior but which do not enforce theological doctrines (examples would include religious teachings such as the Good Samaritan, The Golden Rule, the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, etc., all of which promote positive civil behavior but do not impose ecclesiastical rites); and

A free-market approach to religion, thus ensuring religious diversity and security for the rights of religious conscience.
Consequently, Marshall says, a Christian nation as demonstrated by the American experience is a nation founded upon Christian and Biblical principles, whose values, society, and institutions have largely been shaped by those principles.

This definition was reaffirmed by American legal scholars and historians for generations 5 but is widely ignored by the writers of our textbooks and history books, we call Revisionists.  American Presidents Affirm that America is a Christian Nation
President Barack Obama is the first American president to deny that America is a Christian nation. 6 Is he right. Can you be a Christian nation for over 200 years, then suddenly not be a Christian nation.

What did other presidents believe?

The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were. . . . the general principles of Christianity according to JOHN ADAMS

[T]he teachings of the Bible are so interwoven and entwined with our whole civic and social life that it would be literally….impossible for us to figure to ourselves what that life would be if these teachings were removed according to TEDDY ROOSEVELT

America was born a Christian nation – America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture according to WOODROW WILSON

American life is buildt, and can alone survive, upon . . . [the] fundamental philosophy announced by the Savior nineteen centuries ago according to HERBERT HOOVER

This is a Christian Nation declared HARRY TRUMAN

Let us remember that as a Christian nation . . . we have a charge and a destiny quoted RICHARD NIXON

There are many additional examples, including even that of Thomas Jefferson. 13

Significantly, Jefferson was instrumental in establishing weekly Sunday worship services at the U. S. Capitol (a practice that continued through the 19th century) and was himself a regular and faithful attendant at those church services, 14 Jefferson made his weekly horseback ride to attend Christian Church services at the Capitol regardless of bad weather. 15

While not every Christian observes a Sunday Sabbath, no other religion in the world honors Sunday except Christianity. As one court noted, the various Sabbaths were “the Friday for Islam, the Saturday for the Jews, or Sunday for the Christians.” 17 )

Why was Jefferson a faithful attendant at the Sunday church at the Capitol? He once explained to a friend while they were walking to church together:

No nation has ever existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man and I, as Chief Magistrate of this nation, am bound to give it the sanction of my example. 18

So our Presidents declare us to be a Christian nation- what about our U. S. Congress?
Declarations from the Legislative Branch affirming America as a Christian nation are plentiful as well. For example, in 1852-1853 when some citizens sought a complete secularization of the public square and for the government to cease of all religious activities, Congress responded with unambiguous declarations about America as a Christian nation:

HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Had the people, during the Revolution, had a suspicion of any attempt to war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle. At the time of the adoption of the Constitution and the amendments, the universal sentiment was that Christianity should be encouraged. Any attempt to level and discard all religion would have been viewed with universal indignation. . . . In this age there can be no substitute for Christianity; that, in its general principles, is the great conservative element on which we must rely for the purity and permanence of free institutions. 19

The SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE said : We are Christians, not because the law demands it, not to gain exclusive benefits or to avoid legal disabilities, but from choice and education; and in a land thus universally Christian, what is to be expected, what desired, but that we shall pay a due regard to Christianity? 20
In 1856, the House of Representatives also declared:

[T]he great vital and conservative element in our system is the belief of our people in the pure doctrines and divine truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 21
On March 3, 1863 while in the midst of the Civil War, the U. S. Senate requested President Abraham Lincoln to “designate and set apart a day for national prayer and humiliation” 22 because:

[S]incerely believing that no people, however great in numbers and resources or however strong in the justice of their cause, can prosper without God’s favor; and at the same time deploring the national offences which have provoked His righteous judgment, yet we are encouraged in this day of trouble by the assurances of His word to seek Him for mercy and help through Jesus Christ, the Senate of the United States do hereby request the President of the United States, by his proclamation, to designate and set apart a day for national prayer and humiliation. 23 (emphasis added)
President Lincoln quickly complied with that request, 24 and issued what today has become one of the most famous and quoted proclamations in America’s history. 25

Across the generations, our national reliance on God, the Bible, and Christianity has been repeatedly reaffirmed. In fact, consider five representative images produced by the U. S. Government.
The first three are from World War II: one shows the Nazis as the enemy because they want to attack the Bible, and the other two encourage Americans to buy War Bonds by pointing to Christian images. The fourth and fifth images are from the Department of Agriculture in the 1960s, using the Bible and even Smokey Bear in prayer as symbols to encourage Americans to be conscious of fire safety and to help preserve and conserve nature.
Today it seems our courts are the biggest factor in tearing down Christian principles in our nation- But what was their history before 1962?

The Judicial Branch Affirms that America is a Christian Nation
From the Judicial Branch, consider first some declarations of prominent U. S. Supreme Court Justices regarding America as a Christian nation.

Justice Joseph Story (1779-1845) was appointed to the Court by President James Madison. Story is considered the founder of Harvard Law School and authored the three-volume classic Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (1833). In his 34 years on the Court, Story authored opinions in 286 cases, of which 269 were reported as the majority opinion or the opinion of the Court 26 and his many contributions to American law have caused him to be called a “Father of American Jurisprudence.” Justice Story openly declared:

One of the beautiful boasts of our nation is that Christianity is a part of the Common Law. . . . There never has been a period in which the Common Law did not recognize Christianity as lying at its foundations. . . . I verily believe Christianity necessary to the support of civil society. 27 Let me repeat that last phrase again.
He continues by saying in our nation, the Christian religion is our foundation.

Justice John McLean (1785-1861) was appointed to the Court by President Andrew Jackson. McLean served in the U. S. Congress, as a judge on the Ohio Supreme Court, and then held cabinet positions under two U. S. Presidents. His view on the importance of Christianity to American government and its institutions was unambiguous:

For many years, my hope for the perpetuity of our institutions has rested upon Bible morality and the general dissemination of Christian principles. This is an element which did not exist in the ancient republics. It is a basis on which free governments may be maintained through all time. . . . Free government is not a self-moving machine. . . . Our mission of freedom is not carried out by brute force, by canon law, or any other law except the moral law and those Christian principles which are found in the Scriptures. 29
Already mentioned at the beginning was Justice David Brewer (1837-1910), appointed to the Court by President Benjamin Harrison. Brewer held several judgeships in Kansas and served on a federal circuit court before his appointment to the Supreme Court. In addition to his already noted statements, Justice Brewer also declared:

We constantly speak of this republic as a Christian nation – in fact, as the leading Christian nation of the world. 30

In the case of Holy Trinity Church vs. United States, 143 U.S. 471, that Court, after mentioning various circumstances, added, “these and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.” 31
Brewer did not believe that calling America a Christian nation was trivial; in fact, he wrote an entire book giving the evidence that America was a Christian nation. 32 He concluded:

[I] have said enough to show that Christianity came to this country with the first colonists; has been powerfully identified with its rapid development, colonial and national, and today exists as a mighty factor in the life of the republic. This is a Christian nation. . . . [T]he calling of this republic a Christian nation is not a  mere pretence, but a recognition of an historical, legal, and social truth. 33

Justice Earl Warren (1891-1974) agreed with his predecessors. Before being appointed as Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Warren had been the Attorney General of California. Warren declared:

I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their belief in it: freedom of belief, of expression, of assembly, of petition, the dignity of the individual, the sanctity of the home, equal justice under law, and the reservation of powers to the people. . . . I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion. I like also to believe that as long as we do so, no great harm can come to our country. 34

Many other declarations by other Supreme Court Justices, but in addition to the declarations of individual judges, the federal courts have repeatedly affirmed America to be a Christian nation – including the U. S. Supreme Court, which declared that America was “a Christian country,” 35 filled with “Christian people,” 36 and was indeed “a Christian nation.” 37 Dozens of other courts past and present have repeated these pronouncements 38 but so,too, have American Presidents – as in 1947 when President Harry Truman quoted the Supreme Court, declaring:

This is a Christian Nation. More than a half century ago that declaration was written into the decrees of the highest court in this land [in an 1892 decision]. 39

American Jewish Leaders Agree with History
Jewish leaders, although firmly committed to their own faith, understand that by defending Christianity they are defending what has provided them their own religious liberty in America. For example, Jeff Jacoby, a Jewish columnist at the Boston Globe explains:

This is a Christian country – it was founded by Christians and built on broad Christian principles. Threatening? Far from it. It is in precisely this Christian country that Jews have known the most peaceful, prosperous, and successful existence in their long history. 40

Aaron Zelman (a Jewish author and head of a civil rights organization) similarly declares:

[C]hristian America is the best home our people have found in 2,000 years. . . . [T]his remains the most tolerant, prosperous, and safest home we could be blessed with. 41

Dennis Prager, a Jewish national columnist and popular talk show host, warns:

If America abandons its Judeo-Christian values basis and the central role of the Jewish and Christian Bibles (its Founders’ guiding text), we are all in big trouble, including, most especially, America’s non-Christians. Just ask the Jews of secular Europe. 42

Prager further explained:

I believe that it is good that America is a Christian nation. . . . I have had the privilege of speaking in nearly every Jewish community in America over the last 30 years, and I have frequently argued in favor of this view. Recently, I spoke to the Jewish community of a small North Carolina city.
When some in the audience mentioned their fear of rising religiosity among Christians, I asked these audience-members if they loved living in their city. All of them said they did. Is it a coincidence, I then asked, that the city you so love (for its wonderful people, its safety for your children, its fine schools, and its values that enable you to raise your children with confidence) is a highly Christian city? Too many Americans do not appreciate the connection between American greatness and American Christianity. 4

Don Feder, a Jewish columnist and long time writer for the Boston Herald, similarly acknowledges:

Clearly this nation was established by Christians. . . . As a Jew, I’m entirely comfortable with the concept of the Christian America. 44 The choice isn’t Christian America or nothing, but Christian America or a neo-pagan, hedonistic, rights-without-responsibilities, anti-family, culture-of-death America. As an American Jew. . . . [I] feel very much at home here. 45

In fact, Feder calls on Jews to defend the truth that America is a Christian Nation:

Jews – as Jews – must oppose revisionist efforts to deny our nation’s Christian heritage, must stand against the drive to decouple our laws from Judeo-Christian ethics, and must counter attacks on public expressions of the religion of  most Americans – Christianity. Jews are safer in a Christian America than in a secular America. 46

Michael Medved, a Jewish national talkshow host and columnist, agrees that America is indeed a Christian nation:

The framers may not have mentioned Christianity in the Constitution but they clearly intended that charter of liberty to govern a society of fervent faith, freely encouraged by government for the benefit of all. Their noble and unprecedented experiment never involved a religion-free or faithless state but did indeed presuppose America’s unequivocal identity as a Christian nation. 47
Burt Prelutsky, a Jewish columnist for the Los Angeles Times (and a freelance writer for the New York Times, Washington Times, Sports Illustrated, and other national publications) and a patriotic Jewish American, gladly embraces America as a Christian nation and even resents the secularist post-modern attack on national Christian celebrations such as Christmas:

I never thought I’d live to see the day the Christmas would become a dirty word. . . .How is it, one well might ask, that in a Christian nation this is happening? And in case you find that designation objectionable, would you deny that India is a Hindu country, that Turkey is Muslim, that Poland is Catholic? That doesn’t mean those nations are theocracies. But when the overwhelming majority of a country’s population is of one religion, and most Americans happen to be one sort of Christian or another, only a darn fool would deny the obvious.

This is a Christian nation my friends. And all of us are fortunate it is one, and that so many millions of Americans have seen fit to live up to the highest precepts of their religion. It should never be forgotten that, in the main, it was Christian soldiers who fought and died to defeat Nazi Germany and who liberated the concentration camps. Speaking as a member of a minority group – and one of the smaller ones at that – I say it behooves those of us who don’t accept Jesus Christ as our savior to show some gratitude to those who do, and to start respecting the values and traditions of the overwhelming majority of our fellow citizens, just as we keep insisting that they respect ours. Merry Christmas, my friends. 48

Orthodox Rabbi Daniel Lapin of the Jewish Policy Center unequivocally declares [I] understand that I live . . . in a Christian nation, albeit one where I can follow my faith as long as it doesn’t conflict with the nation’s principles. The same option is open to all Americans and will be available only as long as this nation’s Christian roots are acknowledged and honored. 49

In fact, with foreboding he warns:   Without a vibrant and vital Christianity, America is doomed, and without America, the west is doomed. Which is why I, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, devoted to Jewish survival, the Torah, and Israel am so terrified of American Christianity caving in. 50 God help Jews if America ever becomes a post-Christian society! Just think of Europe! 51       There is so much more, but today, I hope you will be encouraged with this message. Whether you are a Christian or not, it should be you a reason to vote for Christian leaders that bring back Biblical values to our nation and its institutions nationally, statewide and locally.

If you are a Christian today- Pray and repent for us drifting away from God and ask God- how can I step forward and engage to be what you want me to be.
Do you need me to run for office?
Do you need me to speak up?
I surrender to You might Lord- Show me and lead me what You would have me to do- In Jesus name- Amen

Friends thank you for reading today and I pray God greatly blesses you and your family.

 

How God Develops Ministry in People

Today, there are zillions of different kinds of ministries and just as many ways to do ministry.  When I first felt God tugging at me to do something, it wasn’t that easy because basically in 1988 that meant I would go back to school to learn to be a pastor, youth leader or other church worker.  A lot has changed in just a few years.

But I believe because the world is changing, the Lord wants to position His people strategically in front of those that so desperately need Him.  He is calling people into ministry fields in virtually every walk of life where there are people.  He is giving lawyers, doctors and nurses, contractors, people having struggled through divorce, drugs and other addictions, gangs, human trafficking, and those that have come through childhoods plagued by abuse and molestation.  He is taking us any way He finds us, then quickly putting us to work in the kingdom.

In America we get behind a western century, western culture mindset, which isn’t always scriptural.  Sometimes this is true that you need a college degree in law, medicine or counseling to be dovetailed into the exact ministry God has for you.

Other times, like the new testament, you hear the gospel today, come to know Jesus and truly you have everything you need to share Jesus with someone else.  He changed you.

What is ministry?   Whether you are conscious of it or not, ministry is simply answering the Isa 6 call of God.  Isa 6:8  Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

Whether you are doing something as a single individual, or as a group, ministry is any time you give to serve others.  For 99% of Americans, ministry is a volunteer effort.  Let’s take some examples.

Ministry in church work is everything from cooking for VBS in the kitchen of your church to preparing as a teacher.  For some it’s taking a particular age group out in the community to do evangelistic work,  do back-yard Bible Clubs, put on a health fair with your church doctors and nurses or change the oil in cars for single moms on Saturday mornings.  Without going outside the walls of your church there are umpteen ways to serve others.

Some people, depending on the church and how missional it is or simple based on what God has put in them, venture out to community ministries to volunteer with a local food pantry, pregnancy crisis center, abuse shelter, transient shelter, thrift store, medical clinic, divorce recovery group or celebrate recovery group.  It could be a cancer or Alzheimer’s group.

Most people start in ministry fields here, but not necessarily.  Ministry is as individualized as the person.   The call to each of us, “who will I send and who will go for me” is a personal call and your reply might be based on your growing knowledge of just what Jesus has done for you.

God loved you so much that He sent……………..   That means something different to different people.  It means something different  based on your relationship with the Lord.  It means something different based what God has saved you out of.

Some of the most dynamic people in ministry are those who, like Paul, have been saved from a life of drugs, alcohol, wrong decisions, wrong sexual lifestyles or people who have been in prison.  We know what God has saved us from.

We can’t buy one drop of Jesus blood.  We can’t do enough things in all our life to earn one drop of Jesus blood, but ministry is knowing how much Jesus loves us and it is simply our response to that love.

When someone loves me, I respond to that love.  I love them in return and I’ve learned love is a verb.  I am always demonstrating my love.  Think of true ministry as simply demonstration of your love for Christ.  Often a person’s depth of ministry is based on their growing relationship and love towards their Jesus.

Some people at some point, want to step out into a place of both service and demonstration of their love for Christ by entering into some type of Christian service work.  At one time in the past, this literally meant you would leave home and go on a foreign mission field somewhere.  But now the Lord has opened doors for full time missions in hundreds if not thousands of venues here and abroad.

Not everyone finds themselves at this crossroads and I don’t feel it’s right or wrong that you do or don’t.  It’s certainly not a measurement of love for Christ either.  The fact is, God uses people in all types of occupations in ministry.  But just as evident, there are some, who feel this inner calling.  They think about it, some worry about it, but as long as you have that vibrant relationship with the Lord, you feel that constant tugging that ministry is ahead for you.  Full time- stepping out on some type of faith or something.  So this next little section is devoted to anyone who might be at that crossroads.  What might it look like.  I feel a tugging (maybe??)  What am I suppose to do about it.

What I am going to say next, I really need you to hear it correctly.  I know people who have been so willing to be obedient, they have so wanted God to move on their behalf, they have sold all their possessions expecting God to move for them and put them on a mission field somewhere.  Two years later, they were still looking, disillusioned and feeling bad towards the Lord.  I’m not saying God doesn’t honor our faith sometimes, but I’ve learned a large part of ministry is obedience.  God invites me to join Him in His work and I join Him following Him the entire way.

Please don’t see this as criticism for anyone that this has happened too, but there are people who are so passionate we step out on what we think is faith, but maybe we want to lead and expect God to follow.  Maybe the process is learning to rely on Him, follow Him, trust in Him, and Surrender to Him.  Somewhere in that, we are lost to ourselves and we let Him fill us, work through us and we are no longer limited to our limitations, but His.  He does mighty things through us.

My call for ministry developed out of delighting in the Lord.  This is a story in itself how I fell in love with the Lord, but it was out of that love relationship, that my response was being open to His will in my life.  I remember how passionately I prayed that prayer of Isa 6.  Here am I Lord, Let me, Use me.

The Lord gave me the idea of a classroom of grade school children.  The teacher needs some paper or crayons or something and she asks, who will go to the office for me to get these.  If there are 30 children, 30 hands go up.  Not only that, they all want to wave more frantically than the other to be the teachers attention to be chosen.

When God has Isaiah standing before Him, He almost acts like He is in that grade school setting talking to a class of 30 students.  Who will go?  Who will serve?   Isaiah might not have even been able to talk as the Biblical response for being before the Lord is you are layed prostrate with no energy to speak.   The Lord said what He said almost like He was looking out over 30 students.

But whether Isaiah could speak, I believe he had his inward hand up high, waving as frantically as possible saying Here Lord, Use Me.  Use Me Lord!!!!, Let Me Lord!!!!!.  That was my attitude and response to a “t”.

I remember in March going to the front of my church at invitation time.  I said I feel called into ministry.  I don’t see anything.  Everything in front of me is black.  Then I did something.  I took one step forward and said, I am taking my first step of faith today.  But if you the church don’t pray for me, nothing is likely to happen.  I need the Lord to show me and I need you to pray for me.

At this time I had a job.  I worked with my family and I was satisfied.  I was happy.  In fact, they needed me and I felt I couldn’t walk away from them, so this was to be a part time effort.

About 3 months later, I became aware that people were going church to church to church taking advantage of them for food and other helps during the month.  I learned that a brand new Second Harvest Food Bank had opened in a neighboring city and I had a pickup and could get food there and bring it back to our town to do a food pantry.

I talked to the area churches and asked if I could do this on their behalf, meaning, if I got food, they would send people to us to serve.  They thought that was a good idea.  I started using the bedroom of our home, until the landlord about a year later threatened to kick us out if we didn’t move the food pantry somewhere else.

Up to now I had used my tithe money to purchase all the food.  This was a part time effort for me and for 8 years.  Now I was being forced out of our comfortable surroundings.  How in the world could I afford a business space for a food pantry?   The answer came when someone offered to rent a store front on a side street,  30 by 40 for $100 a month.  The building had 3 light bulbs, no plug ins, but for $15 more, electric was included.  There was no bathroom and no water.

But a local church offered to pay the rent and our first monthly giver began helping.  The bigger space was in a neutral location which meant we could literally serve our county, draw many more volunteers and begin seeing some small donations come in.

After 2 years, we began seeing challenges.  People needed food at odd times and no one was at the food pantry.  We needed a place open during normal hours through the day on a consistent basis.  I started going everywhere I could find anyone doing ministry and found some ministries were using thrift stores as a base for income.  We were just hoping if we could open a store, it would serve to have someone open in the morning, pay the rent and utilities and then the food pantry could take a back section without incurring any further need for donations.   We began to advertise.  100 pennies out of every dollar donated buys food and goes in someones food box.  It began to work.

8 years came and went.  We hadn’t grown by leaps and bounds, mostly just small steps at a time.  When we started the thrift store, I borrowed money and purchased the fixtures for this tiny store.  We had a rough start and two years later, were 6-9 months behind on turning in sales tax and payroll tax.  It looked like the end.  Our manager had left to stay with a sick father and the person in the interim had finished killing business.

The board met to shut down the ministry, but we ended up praying and putting it in God’s hands and trying again.  We interviewed for a manager and God sent someone from Florida who had managed a successful thrift store.  In 3 months, we had paid all bills and were in the black.  My tithe and a few church gifts each month continued to purchase food.

We continued to grow.  We had started a county-wide Christmas program and a couple of other programs, but our manager left and the manager we brought on killed sales again.  God sent in 3 girls who not only turned sales around, once again, but they doubled sales.

8 years had come and gone, and our family business was closing.  At exactly the same time, the home I was renting, the owner died and it was sold forcing me to move.   The family had rented me this old Victorian colonial 2 story home for $125 a month.  Could I survive?

The ministry was at a point of needing a director, but we had never figured a way to afford one.  There was no free money to direct towards another salary.  The board decided they had to hire a director.  They only offered $400 a month for 2 years.  No one else would take it and it looked like I was stuck with the job, but I did learn God was faithful every month.  Money would come from usual sources and I never missed a payment, was never late and God always supplied.  The 3rd year, the board increased the salary to $800 a month, but by October they were out of money so for 3 months, I didn’t get anything.  But never did God let me down.

By now we had a couple of vans and I was the person who had always gone to get food and unload it.  I did most of the heavy work and my weekends were spent driving to homes and picking up yard sales from people.

We opened another headquarters in Sneedville in Hancock County, Tennessee’s most impoverished county where 1/3 of the residents were out of work.  That’s a whole story in itself but we thought we were going to have to close the center, but God turned it around and we then outgrew 3 ministry centers and purchased the one we’re in now.

 

In 2001, we started looking for a larger ministry center in Rogersville.  We had grown to where we would have volunteer banquets and sometimes 25 to 30 people would come.  It was a grand time and the 3 girls were running the store and making some money.  But people would come to get food and the food ministry so grew, they would block the street and police were being called to give tickets.

 

There is so much we’re missing but these are highlights to show that we’ve gone through years of struggle and long hours, no money, but God has always been faithful and never let us down.

A much larger building (2 story, 22,000 sq ft)  a block away was being bid off from a bankrupt national furniture company.  We stepped out on faith to purchase it and did.  Miracle after miracle happened.  Nearly 350 people helped us on move day and moved everything out in 5 hours and then had the store ready to open for business by 5pm that afternoon.

Another several months passed and we decided to have a dedication and ask local pastors to pray a blessing over the building.  The day of the dedication, I had just completed a 40 day fast, and God sent a couple from a town 60 miles away who we only knew their names.  They had come that week and paid off the balance of our building so our $250,000 building was now free and clear.

Now just a short time later, the ministry has grown to serve nearly 100,000 people a year, employee to some degree 32 staff and utilize 400 local volunteers and 1,300-1,500 mission team members from some 35 churches from around the nation to do home repairs and other services.  We are giving away a million pounds of food each year and we value the goods and services provided at about $3.5 million dollars.

Keys to Ministry:

But I promised to give some keys for ministry. Let’s see if we can look at some that are most important.

  1. How do you know you are being called? The idea of working for God becomes your heart’s desire. Often people in ministry make far less than their counterparts in the real world.  Money is no longer the motivator or the determining factor.
  2. So does God speak to you, draw a picture for you are what? He could speak to you, but most people hear a message that convicts them, they read a scripture or have a quiet time with God or see other people in ministry, all of which are God ways to draw people to His heart.  All of these are ways God speaks to our hearts.
  3. God wants relationship more than service. Don’t ever let your service get in the way of your love for Jesus.  He wants relationship and out of that you will walk in His favor and be blessed.   There will be times when He is all you have and if you have that relationship, you won’t have to worry about whether your blessings will eventually arrive.
  4. Never let yourself get in a place you don’t depend totally on the Lord. Ministry is not a job.  It is being empowered by an Almighty God to do His work on this earth.  It is an honor and privilege to work for Him.  Every day surrender to Him.  Every day let Him fill you and every day let Him amaze you at what you see Him do through you.
  5. Always be careful to give glory back to Him for everything He accomplishes through our hands.
  6. Don’t sell what you have and wait. Rather, begin where He shows you, whether in a church, a community ministry or starting your ministry.  Start part time or maybe you land a job in an established ministry that is full time.  Be faithful.  Be diligent.  Hard work pays off.  Don’t work for others, but rather work for the Lord.
  7. If you are doing a ministry that someone else does, visit every ministry you can find doing the same thing. Talk to them.  Learn from them.  If you follow them and cut down on mistakes, you can probably accomplish in 5 years what it took them 15 years to accomplish.
  8. I’ve seen a lot of ministry people break themselves down in ministry. There are smart ways to approach things and less than smart ways.  Eat right, Exercise right, Rest right.  Take good care of your body as ministry pulls things out of you, you didn’t know you had to give.   Learn what your boundaries are.  There is only so much you can do and so much you can give.  “Burn-out is real”  Some people never get over it.  Some ministries die because of it.
  9. Learn to find places and times to escape.
  • Speaking of the things in #3 above. If at all possible, protect yourself early on. Make decisions that are valuable.  One of mine was not taking phone calls at home.  You can call my office and you can call my cell (if I can remember to turn it on- oops forgot today) but I won’t answer my home phone.  I would have no rest.  Depending on what your ministry might be about, you might have to have degrees of protection from those you serve.  This only means you try to put into place something that screens who can get to you.  People needing you will not hesitate to soak all the life you have to give out of you.  I really feel I need to know when I have life to give, and let God lead me as who to give it too.  It doesn’t in any way I’m cut off from those I serve, it simply means, I make choices based on my energy and life levels when to connect with needs.  When I’m used up for the day, I have to quit until tomorrow.  I’ve not always done this, but keep it in mind as you grow.  You always have in your mind what you are willing to give in service to others.  But I promise, when people start demanding on you and draining your life out of you, they will take more than you every dreamed about and many become bitter and quit or loose their health.
  • God might use grants, federal funds, or other funding, but always depend on God as your source. God can supply money from many directions and only through your dependence on Him will you see those funds come when they are most needed.
  • Constantly give your ministry back to Him. Always be looking to train your staff and board of directors to take over if you got hit by a bus. The ministry is like a child and you don’t want the child to die if something happens to you.  Begin early to build in the success.
  • Success in ministry comes too as you sell responsibility and ownership. You first have to sell the fact that your audience is responsible for those you serve. You normally can find this in scriptures so you are having God speak to them from His word.  But then you sell ownership.  You can only do this if you understand that even though God gave you a ministry, it doesn’t below to you, it belongs ultimately to God.  If so and you don’t feel you own what you manage, you can sell the ownership to others.  I might say something like-  Who owns Of One Accord?  God entrusted it to a board of directors representing the churches of our community.  That’s you.  We tell our people we represent you the churches of our community.  If there is always enough food to give away, it reflects on you.  If we never have a good selection of food, it reflects on you.  Fortunately you are making sure there is always enough.