Back in the fall of 1973, I was
beginning the confirmation process in the Lutheran Church. My
pastor was leading the class. After beginning the class with
prayer, he asked us who Jeremiah was. Well I raised my hand
and responded, everyone knows the answer to that pastor,
"Jeremiah was a bullfrog and he was a good friend of mine."
The class broke up laughing, but the
Pastor was not impressed or pleased that his class was now
singing the hit song from Three Dog Night "Joy to the World,"
which some of you who grew up in the early 70's will remember
begins with the words, "Jeremiah was a bullfrog, he was a good
friend of mine, I never understood a single word he said but I
helped him drink his wine, and he always had some mighty fine
Now I don't know what was worse,
referring to one of the greatest prophet's as a bullfrog, or
announcing that as a 14-year old I helped him drink his wine.
But I can say the Pastor was not pleased with my response. Not
one of my finer moments, but whenever I hear the Three Dog
Night version of "Joy to the World," I remember that night.
Well this week I was wondering if
Three Dog Night in anyway was referring to Jeremiah the
prophet in their song, or were they simply referring to a
bullfrog named Jeremiah. So I contacted them to find out.
They responded to my message telling
me the song was actually written for a children's television
show by Hoyt Axton, before they received the rights to it. So
I guess the official answer to my inquiry is that Jeremiah was
a bullfrog, at least Three Dog Night's Jeremiah. And my guess
is they actually changed some of the lyrics because as you go
further into the song some of the lyrics would be
inappropriate for a children's television show.
Now our Jeremiah was certainly more
than a bullfrog. Our Jeremiah was a great prophet, a man of
God, and a person to admire. Yet he didn't start out that way.
From our scripture reading this
morning we learn that Jeremiah wasn't comfortable initially
being God's prophet as God had called him to be. After
receiving God's call Jeremiah in affect said, "Hold on now
God, I don't know how to speak, and I'm way too young to be
But God was quick with his response
saying, "Don't tell me your only a boy, I'll tell you where to
go and you'll go there. I'll tell you what to say, and you'll
Now clearly Jeremiah was afraid that
no one would listen to him, a young boy, proclaiming to speak
for the Lord. But God assured Jeremiah he would be with him,
therefore he shouldn't be afraid. And then, according, to
scripture, God equipped Jeremiah to speak by touching his lips
giving him the words he would need to convey God's messages.
Among all the many things God is, I
see God as an equipper and one who empowers others. God equips
us and empowers us to caring out his purpose for creation. God
gives us the means to be his hands and feet, as he did Jesus.
I find one of the most important roles
of the church, and of its leaders, is to equip others to be in
ministry. For many, many years it was thought that those
called to leadership positions in the church, whether clergy
or laity, were the ones called for ministry and no one else.
But this in fact is not true, as we have discussed many times
Leaders of the church are called to
equip and encourage others for ministry, sometimes a more
daunting task than just doing the ministry yourself. This is
accomplished by helping folks discern their God given gifts
and abilities, by encouraging them to pursue what they feel
lead to do, and yes by pushing folks sometimes to try
something new, moving them beyond their comfort zone. I
consider one of my most important roles in ministry is that of
equipper and encourager, and yes as some of you can attest to
personally sometimes I do push.
In the book entitled, "Lead On," by
Wayne Schmidt he states that pastors generally fall into two
categories: minister or equipper. Schmidt defines a minister
as "one who is primarily a doer of ministry, someone who uses
personal gifts to touch the lives of others." "Ministers act
directly - they preach sermons, give counsel, teach classes,
make visits," and are generally intimately involved in all
aspects of the churches ministry"
An equipper, on the other hand, is
primarily a developer of other people and their gifts.
Equippers minister indirectly - they prepare others to serve
on the front lines of ministry. While they engage directly in
preaching or teaching, their passion is to develop others to
use their God given gifts (and abilities) on the front lines
of ministry. Rather then being totally on the front lines of
ministry by themselves they work to develop and empower others
to be in ministry together.
Now as I discern my gifts and my role
in ministry I see myself as more of an equipper than a
minister, as defined by Schmidt. I view ministry as a role
that all Christians undertake. In my view we as a church can
have a greater impact on the kingdom if we focus energy on
equipping and empowering all of us to use our God given gifts
and abilities. I believe we as a church can have a much
greater impact on the kingdom if we are all working towards
making a difference for Jesus sake.
And lets face it, one person cannot do
the level, or quality of ministry that we all can. Having one
person, or even a few people in ministry, is limiting the
impact God can ultimately have on this world.
Now ministering and equipping are not
mutually exclusive of one another. Every equipper should
continue some level of involvement in direct ministry, and
every minister should equip others to do some of the work of
ministry. The key is understanding your passion and your call,
and for me I can say my call and passion is one of equipping
and empowering the whole body of Christ.
Therefore my vision is that all of us
will be actively engaged in ministry, so that through our
collective ministry, our friends and neighbors will come to
know the saving grace of Jesus Christ. By our efforts lives
will be changed throughout the world.
I'm absolutely convinced, with all my
being, if we will allow ourselves to be equipped for ministry,
if we follow our passion and trust that God will be with us
every step of the way, our future will be so bright we'll need
to wear sunglasses to church on Sunday mornings.
If we all engage in ministry, not only
will people be drawn to Jesus, this congregation will grow,
and as the congregation grows our opportunities to share God's
love will grow.
When I look out into this
congregation, I don't see complacent people, I see saints
resolved to do the work of God. When I look out beyond the
doors of this church, I don't see people content with business
as usual, I see possibilities for spiritual growth. When I
talk with people from the community I don't hear words of
unbridled joy, I hear words of need. And when I consider what
the future holds, I see Christ reaching out to us saying, "The
future is now."
It's time to go to work. It's time we
allow God to help us transcend our limitations, our fear, and
our self-doubt. It's time we allow God to equip and empower us
to build his kingdom.
Sometimes we're hesitant to go to work
because we fear we may fail, or we may never see the results
of our work. But we must proceed with our calling trusting
that God will equip us, even though we may never see the end
results of our work. After all we're workers, not the master
builder. We're ministers, not messiahs.
Yet like Jeremiah we are called to be
more than bullfrogs, we are called to be prophets of the
future, paving the way towards a new kingdom, a place where
all creatures of our God and king will live together in peace
Thanks be to God!
Read other messages by Pastor Wade