The 95th Session of the Piedmont Annual Conference was held at the Friendship A.M.E. Church of Clinton, SC in October of 2005- it was my first as an active Pastor. One of the many highlights of that conference was the presence of the late Bishop Vernon Randolph Byrd, the 105th elected and consecrated Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Bishop Byrd was asked to preside over a business session where he received Pastoral reports- during the course of hearing reports, a lay delegate approached the microphone and launched a glowing tribute to the Bishop about how he had prayed for her family many years ago and she went on to testify about how her life and her situation in life changed significantly shortly thereafter as a result of the intercession of Bishop Byrd. I distinctly remember the Bishop with a pleasant look of surprise and satisfaction on his face and leaning back in his chair and the only phrase he offered to the sister was…”you never know”.
Ministry matters. All ministry matters all the time. Ministry matters when you’re sleep deprived. Ministry matters when the congregation can’t afford to pay you. Ministry matters when your home life isn’t what it should be. Ministry matters because we never know if the next prayer we pray, the next sermon we preach, the next Facebook status we post will partner with the Holy Spirit to change someone’s life in a radical and revolutionary way.
Last Saturday, I wasn’t thinking about ministry. I woke up with recreation on my mind, drove to Lexington to play golf before heading to my Godson’s Pop Warner football game in Irmo. While at the course, I was teaching my good friend and playing partner the fundamentals of golf as he had never played before and after he whiffed on his first swing, he nailed the second one over 100 yards so I decided to record his swing to share with his family via a social network. The six second video that I took and shared just showed him lining up his shot, fixing his feet and making contact with the ball…then you can hear my shout of encouragement for him before the video ends…harmless right? The six second video that I took was fully intended for his immediate family just so they could see that their husband and father had skills but as I found out yesterday, Bishop Byrd’s words still ring true, sometimes you never know…
I talked to my friend yesterday over lunch and he said “boy, you know you’re a mess with that (social network)”. I laughed and told him that he was concentrating too hard on hitting the ball to see me recording the video that I shared. He continued- “you know, I got a call from Tennessee behind that video and a Pastor told me that he was inspired to get back out and give himself some mental relaxation and recreation time” I smiled because I know all too well that all of us need a outlet for stress relief- but I wasn’t ready for what he said next… “then I got a message from one of my cousins- this cousin isn’t saved and I’ve been trying to reach him for years- trying to minister to him- trying to show a good example- trying to lead him to Christ and nothing that I’ve tried has worked- but he saw your video- he saw your six second video and he said “Reggie, I’ll probably never come to your church, I’ll probably never come to your Bible Study, I’ll probably never come to a revival that you’re leading…but we can talk about God on the golf course…”
Somewhere in glory, I can hear Bishop Byrd saying “you never know”.
You never know how your testimony can pick someone up.
You never know how that funny picture that you share can turn someone’s day around.
You never know how an inboxed message checking on someone for no reason will provide comfort.
You never know how a kind word can brighten someone’s day.
You never know how close someone is to the edge until you use love to rescue them.
You never know how sharing a video of a choir singing or a preacher preaching or even a golfer swinging will reach the masses for the Master.
A six second video of an 8 iron hitting a range ball off an artificial turf mat that was designed for family and friends but reached the world because of a social network may be- just may be the door that someone uses to make heaven their home. I can’t wait until they have their golf date…I want to sponsor it…I really want to participate…but I don’t want to ruin the moment. I’m hopeful that they will discuss temptation while on the tee, deliverance on the driving range, faith around the flagstick, peace on the putting green and salvation from the sand trap and if the brother decides he wants to be baptized, well I don’t know about you but I’ve never seen a golf course without a water hazard. (Acts 8:35-38)
God’s Best Be With You Always,
Rev. Sterling J. Dowling