The Ministry of the Unnoticed (Oswald Chambers, “The Love of God”)

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Currently, I am in the midst of writing a college level course on Women’s Ministry.  As part of my research, I’ve been entrenched in statistics regarding women in the church.  What percentage of the church is made up of women?  What percentage of the church volunteers are women?  A result of that research is that I have also come across articles that address the fact that women are leaving the church.  It took me to pause for a moment, because if the statistics show that women are 55% of the church body… and this with women leaving… how much higher was that number in previous years, decades????

Scouring through these articles, I noticed a fairly common thread amongst the women who were interviewed about why the left the church… they didn’t feel valued in the church.  In other words, they didn’t feel they had a place in the church.  Or, a voice in the church.  Or, that they had anything of value to offer the church.

They felt unnoticed.  Not only when they were attending, but in their absence.  No one noticed they were gone.

I’ve been there, myself.  When we moved to our current city, we knew absolutely NO ONE.  A church came highly recommend to us, and we attended there for over a year.  Every Sunday, when we would enter the church… we were treated like it was our very first visit.  Over 52 Sunday’s would pass… and this bright haired red head was given directions to the children’s Sunday school rooms.  Even the Sunday school teachers didn’t seem to acknowledge us as familiar faces.    We attended faithfully, every Sunday.   The only break we took was the few weeks after our third child was born.  We attended the social events too.  We were present in the church, very present.  We tithed every week, faithfully.  Yet, we never felt at home.  We never felt like we belonged.  And, when we made the decision to leave and find a different church…. no one noticed we were gone.

There was no Pastor call, or card form the children’s ministry director… wondering where we had gone.  No one was concerned for our welfare, and they didn’t even notice when the tithing checks stopped coming in.  We were literally invisible to the people we worshiped with every Sunday.

This morning I was reading through Oswald Chamber’s book, “The Love of God”, and a title chapter jumped off the page at me:

The Ministry of the Unnoticed

Chambers writes:  “Our Lord called twelve disciples – but what about all those other disciples of His that were not specifically called?  The twelve were called for a special purpose, but there were hundreds who followed Jesus – sincere believers in Him – who were unnoticed.”

Oswald Chambers first wrote about “The Ministry of the Unnoticed” in 1936, this is not a new phenomena in the church… of feeling unnoticed.  Chambers not only recognized it in his writing in 1936, but pointed it out in the very scriptures written about the foundations of Christianity.  There were thousands of people, serving Christ, who were unnoticed.  They were not written about in the scriptures by name, but referred to as “the crowd” or “the many”.  People, who were fully devoted followers of Christ… just like you and me, and history would never know their names. Yet, they were just as important in the forward movement of the church as any named disciple or apostle.

Chambers points out that those who were named were exceptions, the first or the most extraordinary conversions.  And as extraordinary as they were, they were still exceptions… not the rule.  He points out that, “The majority of us are unnoticed and unnoticeable people”.  He cautions, in his writing, that if we take these exceptions and make them our standard, we are going to create a big problem, producing the spiritually proud… departing from the good news and building on religion.

In Matthew 5:3, Chambers points out, the scriptures read “Blessed are the poor in spirit”; clarifying that in this reference we are not talking about the economically poor… but those who are spiritually poor.  And in the history of time, poor people are fairly common.  They make up the largest percentage of many populations around the world.  Chambers suggests that it is in this poverty of spirit, that we are able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, not on our good deeds… but in humble love, adoration, and faith.  The every day people, living lives for God… seemingly unnoticed people, who carry great amounts of influence.

If you have ever had a chance to talk to someone who serves in missions, particularly in the third world countries, you can get a glimpse into what joy looks like despite poverty.  People, who in comparison to us, have nothing… yet they give everything they can.  They share the burdens of the community, with smiles on their face because they are full of love.  Kids who don’t have many belongings, running around kicking a soccer ball in their village.  It may be the only soccer ball they have in the entire village, but you don’t hear complaints… instead you hear laughter and see the smiles on their face as they pass the ball back and forth.

These are people who go unnoticed, just like many of us feel, but they do not wallow in it.  They are thankful and joyful for what God has given them.  They find joy in Him, in their community, and in the fact they woke up that morning.  We like to call those simple pleasures, but  think they are more like profound pleasures.  Finding joy in the everyday, TRUE JOY, is profound.

We encounter people like this stateside too.  It’s the woman in the projects who gives everything to make sure kids in her neighborhood have a full belly and a place to sleep, taking the prodigals into the safety of her home.  It is the homeless man, who has nothing but a cart full of what looks like trash, who sits on the corner sharing Jesus with those who pass by.  He has a smile on his face, that we can’t explain.   It is the mother who takes a house and  makes it into a home, welcoming in the neighborhood kids every day.  The husband who toils hard every day to provide for his families needs, but turns down the overtime because he’d rather be home with his family than own that new piece of technology.   It is the child who keeps a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter in his locker, making sandwiches for the kids in his school that don’t have lunch (true story).

Every day people, doing every day things.  Unnoticed.

Or, so we think.

Jesus notices.  It doesn’t matter what man sees or doesn’t see.  We shouldn’t be doing anything for the approval of man.

I love how Oswald addresses this point, when he states:  “The true character of the loveliness that influences for God is always unconscious.  Conscious influence is always prideful and un-Christian.   When we begin to wonder whether we are of any use, we instantly lose the bloom of the touch of the Lord.  …  If we begin to examine our outflow, we lose touch with the source.”

What Chambers is identifying here, is that when we become so focused on what we are doing “for God” we end up having more concern about our deeds.  We are paying more attention to the results.  We are focused on what we are doing.  Then our sin nature takes over because we want credit for it. We want to be noticed for our deeds, by others.  We want to be noticed that we are different, by others.  When we care more about what others are thinking about us, than God… we become prideful.

“Look at me!”, we shout.  “Look at this good thing I did for God!”

Dangerous grounds.

Don’t get me wrong, we are called to be different.  But, the only thing we are called to shout from the roof tops is the GOSPEL!  When we starting pointing out or making a spectacle of our good works, we are taking credit … not giving credit.  Every good deed should be done with the point of proclaiming Christ, of turning the gaze off of us toward God.

When we want accolades and adoration, when we want someone to praise us for being “godly women”, and when we need affirmation of man… we are doing these good deeds for the wrong reason.

Instead, if we are people who are changed by Christ… our “goodness” is just a part of who we are.  We don’t need to draw attention to it any more than the lilies of the field need to get your attention.  It is their fragrance that will cause you turn your head toward them.  They don’t work hard to create that fragrance, it’s just part of who they are.  They don’t fight against each other, so you pick one lily over another.  You catch the smell on the breeze, and your head turns the field… and what do you see?

Hundreds of lilies, waving the breeze.

Doing nothing out of the ordinary.

They were there yesterday, here today, and will be there tomorrow.  They are not shouting for you too look at them, they don’t need your affirmation.  They are just simply being the very thing God called them to be.  They don’t care that there are hundreds of lilies just like them, they don’t try to change their fragrance to stand out from the rest.  They are one part of many, and that is what makes the field so beautiful.

Once, I was in Europe, as we were traveling to our next destination…. something caught my attention.  As I looked out the window of the bus, I saw a sea of golden flowers.  It was absolutely breathtaking.  When I had a chance to get a closer view, I realized they were marigolds.  THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of marigolds.  You know, those yellow and orange flowers… that we consider “weeds” in some parts of the country, “cheap filler” for garden beds in other areas.  Something so simple, so ordinary and virtually unnoticed in my neck of the woods… was absolutely STUNNING.

I think that is how God sees his people, when He looks down upon His creation.  A sea of his children, moving about, creating a beautiful mosaic of every day love, care, compassion, and service.

And, that … is STUNNING.

If you are interested in reading more about “The Ministry of the Unnoticed”, you can find it the book “The Love of God” by Oswald Chambers.  There is another booklet by this name, so you’ll want to look for this cover:

theloveofGod

It contains reprints of several of his booklets, which were written in the 1930’s and are just as relevant to today. 

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Movie Review: Holy Ghost

Recently I was given the opportunity to watch this movie for the purpose of reviewing it.   It made me very uncomfortable.  I’m going to break the movie down into 4 very specific sections, but first let me explain the purpose of the movie.

The concept of the movie, is the director wants to film a movie (documentary style) completely led by the Holy Spirit.  Going where the spirit leads him, encountering those whom the spirit wants them to encounter, and doing what the spirit leads them to do.

In essence, that is not necessarily a bad thing.

There are 4 sections in the movie’s progression:

Section 1:  2 Men head into a city which is predominantly Mormon.  They are claiming to heal people, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Section 2:  We head to an interview with Brian Head Welch from the band Korn, who became a Christian.  We get some personal testimonies of God healing people from addictions.  As part of this portion, they head into the crowds before a concert to perform healings, again through the Holy Spirit.

Section 3:   The team heads out of the country to Italy, where they are to have an adventure with a boat.  While there, there are are some prayers for healing (physical and emotional).

Section 4:  The team heads to India, to an incredibly dangerous area for Christians.  To share the gospel.  Healing prayers occur, but not as much of the main focus.  In fact, most of the focus here is simply that they are doing something dangerous and being protected by the Holy Spirit.

We are called to test the spirits, to discern false spirits.  We are told to test the word, to discern lies and misrepresentation.  I also need to acknowledge that I am a very skeptical, skeptical person.  It’s not that I don’t believe that divine healing is possible, or that God doesn’t still give us the gift of healing today.  However, I also don’t believe every instance we see proclaimed on television is real.  In part, because we have seen this exposed in the past.

In the end, after reflecting on the movie, doing some research, and prayer… I can NOT recommend this movie.  Let me explain why, section by section.

Section 1)  I am very suspect of the “healings” we see her, but rather lean toward these are tools of the power of suggestion.

  • There is no sharing of the Gospel in this portion.  In the scriptures, every healing was a tool to share the gospel.  Jesus revealed in the healing, and in ministry after Jesus final ascension into heaven… healings were a tool of the Gospel. Additionally there were instances were people were not healed, Peter, for the glory of God.
  • In their “prayers” for this healing they Command the Holy Spirit to heal, they are not asking.  In fact in one of their prayers, the person praying said “Holy Spirit, I give you permission to enter this man’s ministry.” – At what point do we as humans give the Holy Spirit PERMISSION to do anything?
  • In their prayers, only one did they ask for the healing in the name of Jesus.
  • In the actual acts of healing, the men are essentially having to convince the person they are being healed.  This is a power of persuasion.  In all but 1 account in the scriptures, was healing not instantaneous.  A woman was completely healed of her illness by touching the hem of his garment.  In this movie, the accounts of healing take repetitive suggestion.  Do you feel a difference?  No.   — pray again— How about now?  Do you notice any difference?  A little. — pray again— How about now?  A little bit?  — pray again — How about now?.      In scriptural healings it was that miraculous total healing that got the person’s attention.  Jesus and his disciples didn’t have to coax a healing.  Not one time.

Section 2)  Section two really started out well done.  We get an opportunity to hear the personal testimony of someone who was rescued (instantly) from a life of addiction.  Brian Head Welch’s testimony, and that of his bandmate, could have stood on it’s own.  It would have been a big redeeming from Section 1 of the movie. Unfortunately, the directors toss in another “healer” and they begin the same tactics as Section 1, but in the crowd of people at one of the concerts.

  • I question the legitimacy of the prayer healing tactic, because in the case of celebrity status… these are fans, and they’d say just about anything to be close to the two members of the band.
  • The “healing” tactic used on the atheist man’s is a well known deceptive technique.  He is positioned in such a way to give an illusion of healing (known as leg pulling).  Fact is, if the Holy Spirit wanted to heal this man… sitting was not required.
  • Again, the Gospel was not shown.  Instead we heal a bunch of people, and because you buy this… let’s accept Christ as your savior.   While I can hope that this illusion would at least plant a seed, to make any of these people dig deeper into belief.   I’m suspect.  And, when the atheist finds in a matter of days or weeks that he isn’t healed… this show did more harm than good toward leading him to Christ.  It becomes further evidence that we are just another bunk religion.
  • I also believe that this takes some of the creditability away from Brian Head Welch’s testimony, being associated with this production.

Section 3)  So, this big “boat adventure” is nothing, really.  They see the boat, they get on the boat, and then almost immediately leave the boat.  The rest of the section takes place elsewhere in the city. On the docks, in a restaurant, in a bar.  If the Holy Spirit tells you directly, that you are going to have an adventure on a boat, you have an adventure on a boat.   You don’t visit a boat.  The Holy Spirit didn’t tell them you will encounter someone with a boat.  Or, you will know them by their boat.  Their clear “divine” instructions were that they would have an adventure on a boat.

  • The boat, the whole inspiration for this trip, is totally inconsequential.
  • The boat owner, becomes their shift to explain the deviance from their original mission… is also really inconsequential.  I felt more like what I was seeing was a make shift therapy session & not a spiritual divine appointment.  People, have problems. It isn’t hard to find a person who doesn’t have some sort of struggle.
  • The other encounters (3) on this “adventure” were also inconsequential, and we are given no real explanation of how this was important to the Gospel.
  • There was no sharing of the Gospel message.

Now, before I move on to the 4th section, I also want to point out that there was ZERO follow up with any of these people who they “healed”.  They showed us only their initial encounters with these people, but not any follow up with whether or not these healings lasted.  In the scope of a documentary, they had to get permission (legal contract) to show this… so, there is no reason for them to NOT have contact information to follow up with these people.

This creates a feeling of suspicion in me, because if you were trying to PROVE something… you need evidence.  There is NO evidence.  No interviews later to see if the person was still healed, no interviews with their doctors to see if the doctors could explain it, etc.  This calls us to get caught up in the emotions that sensationalism evokes.

We want miraculous healing.  We want to believe it to be true.  We HOPE that it is.  As, believers, we also KNOW it is possible.  And because of all of these wants, hopes and belief… we are susceptible to the power of suggestion.

Jesus and his disciples healings had hard evidential proof.  A man born blind, that the entire community knew, healed… instantly.  This was not some random stranger that everyone had to simply believe his word that he was healed.  They knew him, they knew him since childhood.  They knew he was blind, without a shadow of doubt.  And he was healed.   In this particular case, there is evidence that the healing stuck, because a week later he was questioned by the Jewish Leaders.

This movie offers not a SINGLE evidence of proof toward of their healings.

Section 4)  The trip to India… this could have been the ENTIRE MOVIE for me, and done much more toward evidencing the proof of the Holy Ghost than the rest of the movie.   Overall, I agree with the amount of protection this DIFFERENT team had in their trip.  I cannot explain how they were not harassed, or how they were allowed into some of the areas they accessed.  Even the on the ground missionaries were shocked and didn’t believe them until they noted they had video of it.

  • Healing prayers were a very small amount of this portion of the film.  Only once, was there even a claim of immediate healing.  The difference, between the previous healings… it was IMMEDIATE, the reaction of the man was total shock and surprise.  Of all the healings in the movie, this is the ONLY ONE, that had at least some credibility.  The man’s response seemed genuine and it got the attention of those around him.
  • There was SOME Gospel introduction here, a stark difference to the rest of the movie.
  • While they exalted some of the moments were an local temple high priest was singing along with their worship music… I can’t ignore my skeptical side that wondered … did he know what he was singing, or just repeating words?  There are plenty of songs in Spanish that I enjoy and sing along to… but I have no clue what they are saying.  (I should probably look into that, ha.)
  • There was one point, where the crowd grows pretty big & at least someone from the crowd gets a bit aggressive.  They leave.  I don’t know if this counters that they were “protected by the Holy Spirit” or part of the protection, knowing that it is time to leave. So I can’t really give a solid opinion on that scenario.

When I watched the movie… at first, I was caught up in the emotions of it.  Even a skeptic like me.  However, as time passed, and I was detached from the emotional response… reservations begin to settle in.

Even when I searched for the youtube trailer, I began to find a LOT of videos and articles that debunked the movie.  These were well documented, well researched, and biblical sound arguments against the claims and behaviors in the movie.

In my own research in the scriptures, what they do here is not in alignment with how healing occurs in the scriptures.  It is also not in alignment with WHY healing was used in the scriptures.

You may ask… was there ANYTHING redeeming in the movie?  A little bit, but it is outweighed by the things that concerned me.  Which is what concerns me the MOST about the movie.  A little bit of truth can make a lie, misrepresentation, con, or manipulation seem TRUE.

I actually think this is a very dangerous movie.

That said, if there is anything positive I can pull from it is this…. THESE PEOPLE WERE BOLD.  They may fully believe that they are doing these things under the spirit, they may not be intentionally trying to scam or manipulate people.  But, there tactics are easily debunked.  The gospel is excluded from their mission.  There is no part of what they are doing that is in full concert with the scriptures.

But, they were bold.  I was very convicted by my own lack of boldness.  When those who are doing things outside of the scriptures are THIS BOLD… we as Christians need to be BOLDER.  Jesus was not timid when it came to calling out false teachers, false prophets.

If you are person strong in your faith, I think you could watch this movie and not be persuaded by it.

However, if you are a new believer, weak in your faith, or a long time believer who is not well versed in the scripture… this could be very damaging to your walk.

* The movie Holy Ghost was given to me by Family Christian for the sake of the review.  The opinions in this review are entirely mine, and not influenced by Family Christian or those who are involved in the making/production of this movie.  I received no cash payment for this review.