More than a Bullfrog
 (Jeremiah 1:4-10)

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 wine."

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 your prophet."

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 say it."

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 before.

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 and harmony.

Thanks be to God!

Read other messages by Pastor Wade