It was a cool June Sunday morning, when, out of the van came out seven men from the Adult Rehabilitation Center in San Diego. They had arrived for their first worship service at the El Cajon Corps. Over the past 18 months, a number of the ARC beneficiaries have since joined our growing ranks, becoming active adherents. The reciprocal relationship with the ARC sees some El Cajon Corps soldiers visiting the ARC to lead discipleship groups, and attending graduation ceremonies. I have the privilege of sharing God’s Word at the Wednesday chapels, once a month. The ARC leadership is committed to making this Harvest Initiative ministry a success.
This association with the A.R.C. beneficiaries continues to enrich our Sunday worship experience. The songs are now a little louder, a few more “Amens” can be heard from the pews, and a minty, cool excitement fills the air. The ARC beneficiaries’ presence has injected a much-needed life into the veins of our formally routine worship services. The joy on the beneficiaries’ faces reflect the undeniable fact that God gives His grace randomly and indiscriminately. God has taken the scraps of a lost people’s lives and mended them back together, creating something beautiful.
Lest we are tempted to think the ARC beneficiaries were the only ones lost. We were all lost, at some point. What are humans to the destructive and enslaving power of sin? Paul states, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Sitting on the same pew with my exuberant fellow ARC worshippers, I can sense my blood flowing slowly carrying along all the potential of dumb, sinful decisions made, and great opportunities missed. Like them, I have taken countless wrong turns along the journey. Like them, I have succumbed to the alluring power of sin, yet there we are, standing shoulder to shoulder – a forgiven, empowered Army of God!
At the El Cajon Corps, we are learning to surrender it all until we are completely empty. We are learning to surrender it all until we have nothing else to give, but everything holy to receive. We are looking forward to experiencing a fresh anointing. We are at the verge of a spiritual breakthrough and a powerful revival. We are ready. Are you?
I invite you all to eavesdrop on my congratulatory message to my beautiful wife who graduates from Arrow Leadership today, and from Nazarene Bible College next month. I have been privileged to witness God’s incarnational grace work in her life. Here goes …
Rutendo I love you so much. I thank God for who you are. I thank God for allowing us to be married to each other. Rutendo, you are beautiful. You are my love. You were loving and caring for me to marry you in 1999, so I know that God made you so special back then is still shining bright in you today.
Congratulations on completing your Arrow Leadership journey. I am extremely proud of you. As you graduate, I think back to the shy, insecure girl I married. I remember when you used to be afraid to speak English. I remember when you thought you could not do much. I remember when you were afraid to go back to school.
But, I thank God that is all now in the past. I thank God you believed that you could. I have watched you blossom over the 16 years of our marriage. I have been blessed to witness your transformation from the cocoon, to a beautiful butterfly soaring in the sky. I have the privilege of seeing you graduate from Arrow Leadership, and from Nazarene Bible College with you BA in Ministry and Counselling. You have done it. Congratulations!
Rutendo, you have let God lead and guide you. That has been evident in your spiritual walk. This has been evident in your passion for women and children’s ministries. This has been evident in your success in your academic and leadership development. On this day, I congratulate you on your accomplishments. On this day, I am honored to be your lead cheerleader and chief encourager. Thank you for taking me along on your spiritual and leadership journey. I am honored to be enjoying the ride alongside you.
Rutendo, your graduation is not the end, but just the beginning of greater things to come. You have been called to lead. You have the anointing to lead men, women and children to a deeper relationship with God. So, take everything you have learned at Arrow Leadership and go use it to develop other leaders. Take everything you have learned and apply it daily to your leadership. Take everything you have learned to make a difference in our fallen world.
The journey is just beginning. Are you ready?
Luke 9:23 says, “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (NIV)
“A disciple is a person that is “journeying with and helping another to grow in knowledge as well as in the virtues and character of Christ” – Calhoun
A disciple is a person who is dedicated to learning from Christ daily. A disciple is a person who is intentionally walking with others along their faith journey, imparting a little of themselves onto others.
One of my favorite authors’ Dallas Willard coined the phrase: “bar code” Christianity. He said some people ignorantly live as if God rings us with a huge scanner from heaven, which automatically assures us of eternal life. Many people I see in church think that Christianity is simply attending church on Sunday, wearing the uniform; playing in the band, singing in the choir, or tithing. Although these activities are good, they are not enough.
There is more to Christianity than that. That is where discipleship comes in. Discipleship is a process by which God transforms us from ignorance to knowledge. Becoming a Christian is automatic; becoming a disciple is a lifetime commitment. Discipleship is not for a selected few, special Christians. Discipleship is for all Christians. In fact, a disciple and a Christians are one and the same thing. A Christian is incomplete without discipleship. Christianity is about growing in our knowledge of God. A disciple is a Christian who is growing through various stages to spiritual maturity. Discipleship is the avenue for this growth.
Here at the Salvation Army El Cajon Corps, we have committed ourselves to growth. For the past three years, we have been challenging people to be involved in personal discipleship groups.
Are you in a life-giving, spiritually edifying discipleship group? If no, why not?
If you in a discipleship group, keep up the good work. God has more in store for us.
“If you are successful, it becomes possible for you to leave an inheritance for others. But if you desire to create a legacy, then you need to leave something in others. When you think unselfishly and invest in others, you gain the opportunity to create a legacy that will outlive you.” – John Maxwell, Thinking for a Change (Warner Books, 2002)
Before year 2002, I wanted to become an international evangelist. I wanted to travel the world preaching the Gospel to strangers. I had hopes of becoming famous for Jesus. However, it all changed one day while attending the high school graduation of one of my youth group members in Spokane, Washington. The speaker started by asking us to close our eyes and imagine we are in the future, 60 years from that day. He asked us to imagine ourselves dead, and listening as people read our eulogy. He then asked us the question, “What are people saying about you? What is your legacy?”
I pondered on these questions for long after the graduation. I had an epiphany. Suddenly, the desire to be a famous international evangelist evaporated from my heart. I no longer wanted to be a drive-by preacher. I no longer wanted to throw Jesus at people, and run away before I see them catch Him. I became content being a local pastor, who leaves a legacy in the lives of just a few people. I had the sudden urge to work on leaving a lasting impact on my local community. My desire now was to become a mature, caring local pastor.
Instead of becoming a celebrity international evangelist who preaches in huge stadiums all over the world, I want to become a pastor who is contented watching one life be transformed for Christ. I want to become a holy man of God, who fears God, and loves to impart others with this love for God. I want the privilege of walking alongside the least, the last, and the lost.
What legacy will I leave? What will people say? I do not know, but I hope people will say I am a man who is head over heels in love with Jesus. I want to be remembered as a husband who is madly in love with his beautiful wife. I want to be remembered for being a loving and caring father of my two beautiful daughters. I love them dearly. I want them to know that their daddy loves them dearly. I want to be remembered as a powerful, effective, passionate preacher of God’s Word. I want to be remembered as a caring and loving pastor.
- What is your legacy?
- In whom are you investing your life?
- What is your life message to others?
- Witness life transformation. I am blessed to watch some dynamic life transformations take place. I used to say that I wanted to be an international evangelist. I am just happy to be a local pastor who preaches the Word, and watches lives transform. Nothing beats that.
- Ministry of Presence. I am blessed to be invited to be part of the families’ sacred moments. I have the humbling privilege of being there right after a baby has been delivered; Enroll new corps adherents and soldiers; Perform weddings as couples’ start a new life together; being present when people are lingering at the threshold of leaving this world for the next; Consoling and comforting families during times of bereavement and leading funeral and/or memorial services.
- Foolishness of Preaching – Paul commanded Timothy to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). I have the privilege each Sunday of proclaiming God’s message to His people – a message of grace, by which God saves people and transforms lives. The gospel is the greatest news ever sent. This is my first passion and love in ministry – proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.
- Walking Alongside Others. I absolutely am blessed to equip people through discipleship. It is an amazing journey of discovery as people read the Bible on their own, for the first time. It is a privilege to be an accountability partner to someone who is blossoming in their prayer life.
- Diversity of Ministry Opportunities. Various doors open for me as a pastor. I am blessed when I eat lunch with homeless man or have dinner at a wealthy family’s mansion.
- I have the honor of playing soccer with elementary children outside of my office, and then followed by a discussion about the heaven with a 95 year old senior.
- I have the blessing of serving adults living with disabilities, followed by an intellectual meeting with the local College President.
- In a single day, I can be in a meeting with a social services client who is seeking a box of food to feed her family; ending the day in the County Supervisor’s office discussing the multi-million dollar Capital Campaign plans.
- Paid to Read the Bible and to pray. How many people can say that about their places of employment? In today’s environment, it has become a rare privilege and opportunity to read the Bible at the office. I can pray for and with a homeless man in the hallway. Or pray with a lady of the streets out in the parking lot.
- Spiritual Shrink. Although I do not have a couch in my office, many people of all ages ask me for advice on spiritual topics. The young adult will seek counsel on matters of faith and ministry. The struggling couple asks for points on how to keep their marriage off the rocks. The men will seek advice on overcoming plaguing addictions.
I love …
- Receiving an encouraging email after a tough day.
- Having coffee with someone contemplating joining the pastorate
- Receiving a hug of gratitude from struggling veteran
- Receiving a warm “Thank You” from a grateful single mom
- Enjoying a delicious dinner with a jovial A.R.C. beneficiary who just gave his life over to Jesus!
- Reading a letter from an old time soldier who is being blessed through her discipleship group. Despite many years in church, for the first time, she can now say she is following Christ with her whole heart!
These are just some of the reasons why I am overjoyed to be a pastor.