Saturday, October 3, 2015

It’s the Message, Not the Medium

Photo by Adam J.W.C. 2009

In this dream I was teaching an adult continuing education class. It was held in a kindergarten classroom filled with tiny desks and chairs and cluttered with piles of toys. Some of the adults attempted to sit down, but most huddled awkwardly at the back of the room. I had brought in many visual aids, books, and notes but could find nowhere to set them down. I tried to write on the chalkboard, but it was filled up with an overabundance of writing and pictures. I tried to erase it, but the eraser was heavy with chalk dust and only made more of a mess.

To make matters worse, I could find no suitable chalk. I had an old, splintered piece of lavender chalk that was too brittle to write on the board. One of the students brought me a crayon and showed me that it wrote easily and visibly on the board, but I was concerned that it could not be erased and would ruin the board for other teachers. 

Another student brought me a small gift box, saying it might contain a solution to my dilemma. I opened it and shook out a sea of confetti, only to find small decorative soaps within, sculpted like sea shells, starfish, jellyfish, and other sea creatures. I tried marking the blackboard with one of them, but it was too soft and crumbled like sand.

Finally I realized that I could use my finger to write in the chalk dust already on the board, just like pranksters write “Wash Me!” on the dirty window of a car. My plan was to draw a diagram of the human brain and show how different regions were involved in various interactions with the environment. But to my horror, as I lifted my finger, I realized that I no longer remembered how to draw the brain!

So I turned my attention back to the class, only to find that most of the students had already slipped away, no doubt put off by the clutter, confusion, and inadequate preparation. But an elderly, overweight woman with swollen legs remained, and she said softly, “I thought you were going to tell us about Jesus.”

My heart sunk as I realized that I had gotten so caught up in the presentation that I had forgotten the most important message! I knelt on the floor beside her and explained that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) deserving eternal punishment in hell, but God gave His only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross to pay for all our sins so that we could have eternal, abundant life with Him (John 3:16; 10:10).

A younger couple also remained. “Oh, we’ve been to church a few times and heard songs about Jesus. They had a great band and videos, and they even served Starbucks! But all they wanted to do was convert us, so we left and didn’t go back.”

As I awoke from the dream, I realized that the Holy Spirit was speaking to me about the importance of witnessing – of preaching Christ, and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23). We must not be ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of salvation to all who believe (Romans 1:16) in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6).   

Before I was saved, God had blessed me with the opportunity to teach neurology to medical students and residents. To me, this field was the most challenging in all of medicine, because no created system or being can fully understand itself, and therefore no human can completely fathom the mystery of the brain.

As fascinating and elusive as the field of neurology is, it pales in comparison with the mystery of the Gospel (Romans 16:25; Ephesians 6:19). Why would God robe Himself in human flesh (John 1:14), suffer and die to pay for our sins, and open His plan of salvation to “whosoever” would trust Him (John 3:16; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13), and not just to His chosen people (Joel 2:32) with whom He made His initial covenant?

His design of the human brain is truly a wonder (Psalm 139:14), and He has given us the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5). But how much greater is the awe He inspires by His freely given gift of grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), offering eternal life with Him (1 John 5:11, 13.20) to all who call on His name!

I am thankful that long before I knew Him, God transformed me from an awkward, stammering child who almost got held back in kindergarten to a well-educated, highly trained academician, public speaker, dancer, and singer. Looking back, I realized that He was equipping me to share the most important message of all time – the only Truth that matters to our eternal destiny and to that of our fellow travelers on earth.

The training He allowed me has given me entry to spheres of influence and unusual forms of ministry. I pray to be always yielded to His will to be a vessel fit for His service (Romans 9:21; 2 Timothy 2:20-21), and to realize that without Him, I am and can do nothing (John 15:5).

The dream showed me that we don’t need a large, modern venue; a sophisticated media presentation; or even specialized education or a divinity degree to share His Word. A learned, erudite speech will do no good if it goes over the heads of the listeners, any more than a complex neurology lecture is suitable for a kindergarten class.

Speaking in tongues that no one can understand does not edify the listeners, but only fills the speaker with pride (1 Corinthians 14:1-33). Speaking with fluent oratory or brilliant philosophy means nothing unless we are speaking the truth in love (1 Corinthians 13:1).

It’s not about us, or about showing off our knowledge or talents. If we get too attached to our own plan for ministry, God may humble us (Proverbs 16:18), just as I was embarrassed in the dream when I could no longer even remember how to draw the brain. Sometimes our words or artistic expressions seem beautiful and artistic, as were the sculpted seashell soaps in the dream, but they lack substance and fail to communicate.

All we have to do is to get real, and to tell others about Jesus. It is not our job to “convert” anyone, for only the Holy Spirit can convict the sinful heart of the need for a Savior Who paid our ransom price in full (1 Corinthians 3:6-7; Jeremiah 17:9; Luke 19:10; Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6).

All we need is obedience and desire to fulfill His Great Commission, to go and teach (Matthew 28:19-20). This is only possible when we yield to the power of the Holy Spirit Who enters us at the moment we are born again (John 3:3-8).

As He teaches us and as we grow in our diligent study of His Word, through His grace we will be more effective in communicating His love and truth to others, whether through language, song, dance, or other arts. But from the moment we are first saved, we can and should immediately share with others how He has changed our destiny and made us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15).

Let us shout from the rooftops (Matthew 10:27) how He delivered us from the pit of hell (Job 33:28; Isaiah 38:17) to abundant, eternal life (John 3:16; 10:10) in heavenly places in Him (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6).

We should pray for direction on how to prepare and how to be receptive to His guidance (Proverbs 3:5-6). But we don’t need to obsess over what to say, for He will give us the right words at the right time (Luke 12:11-12) if we listen to His still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12). We don’t need to arrange for a comfortable, well-equipped auditorium, a Power Point or multimedia production, or even a piece of chalk or a clean blackboard, for He will provide all we need (Philippians 4:14-19).

Jesus taught His amazing truths from a fishing boat (Matthew 13:2-3); He wrote His Word with His finger on stone (Exodus 31:18), plaster (Daniel 5:5) and sand (John 8:6); and He used His powers of observation and allegory to construct timeless parables from everyday events and ordinary people.
The Samaritan woman whom Jesus met and saved at the well did not put off witnessing until she could go to Bible school or rent the town hall for a revival. She left her water bucket behind and immediately ran off to tell everyone in her village that she had found the promised Messiah, and to invite them to come meet Him (John 4:28-29). May we be boldly go and do the same! 

© 2015 Laurie Collett
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a joyful noise said...

Your dreams always inspire me as you show forth Jesus Christ !

Laurie Collett said...

Thank you, Hazel! To God be the glory!
May you have a blessed Lord's day!

Denise said...

bless you dear

Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
How can we forget our schooldays with the old blackboard and chalk?
I fully agree with you that Jesus initiated the Great Commission with his disciples soon after his resurrection. Although through the apostles evangelism was mainly oral backed by both Scripture and by miracles, fortunately for me at least, God can use different methods to get his message across - blogging could be one of them. And as you say, in addition, dancing could also be a witness.
Another is through nature. Not only by means of the stars in the sky or mountains and streams, but through subjects such as neurology, with the dizzying complexity of the human brain testifying the power of God in design.
I personally believe that God is using scientific knowledge - through technology as well as biological studies - as extra testimony of his power and glory on the eve of his return and the conclusion of human history.
A well written blog. God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

God bless you too, Denise!

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
I agree that God is increasingly using technology to spread His Word as His return approaches. End-times prophecy says that "men shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." The Hebrew phrase for "run to and fro" is the same as that used now to indicate a computer search. It is truly amazing to me how Richard and I can be engaged in a good-natured debate with our son and his fiancee, whether over theology, politics, or any subject, and within moments their smart phones come out ad they have instant access to facts that in our day we had to memorize or spend hours researching in a dusty library.
Praise God that we can use the Internet, blogging in particular, as a means to spread His Word and encourage others across the globe, even if we have never "met." I am thankful for your support of this blog and for sharing your insights here as well as in your own posts.
God bless,

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
the fact that you were teaching in a kindergarten in your dream immediately brought to my mind that unless we become as children we will in no way enter the kingdom of God, and that those who humble themselves are greatest in the kingdom of Heaven....
I have to admit that what I love most in my life is talking to people about Jesus, especially out in the streets, and I find that it is Jesus that people want to know more about, not me.

I have found sometimes that some Christians appear to worship the created more than the Creator, in raising church 'leaders' up. I think it is just the teaching in Bible colleges sometimes. I find it difficult to accept that some pastors like people to call them by the title of 'pastor', and yet Paul the apostle never signed his letters 'apostle'.
Nice post Laurie, I enjoyed reading it.

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
Great point, that we must be as children, with childlike faith, to enter the kingdom of God. May adults have too much pride to do this, just as many of the adults in the dream looked like they didn't fit in and ultimately left.

I agree with you that in many churches or ministries there is more uplifting of the pastor or minister than of Christ, making it more of a cult. For this reason, I find it disturbing that some churches today have a single pastor who preaches live at one church, but his message is videotaped to many satellite churches instead of a live message even though those churches have pastors.

Our first pastor, a great man of God who went home to Him at age 40 from lung cancer, wanted to be called "Preacher," emphasizing that his role was to preach Christ, not to be glorified himself.

May all our ministries be about glorifying Him! Thank you as always for sharing your insights. God bless,

Brenda said...

I have been in a church where what was preached was taped and sold. Your first pastor sounds like he was a very nice person, with the right intentions regarding preaching the gospel.
God bless you Laurie.

Laurie Collett said...

Our first pastor had a great heart for people and a passion for lost souls and for preaching God's Word. Looking forward to seeing him again in glory.
God bless you too!

Aritha said...

Thanks for this message. I love what you said about the Samaritan woman.

Laurie Collett said...

You're very welcome, Ariella! I'm blessed to hear you enjoyed the post!
Love in Christ,