Yesterday I had a conversation and time of prayer with Pastor Vernon McMorris of International Church Christ Built. He had stopped by the HCN office for a few minutes and shared a deep burden in his life. He told me that morning while he was sitting on his front porch doing his morning quiet time he heard five shots fired not far from where he lives. Then he told me that he had run into a young man at a store a couple of weeks ago who had been attending his church off and on. Pastor Vernon mentioned to the young man that he wasn’t in church the previous Sunday. The young man said he would be back, but then Vernon told me that the young man had been shot and killed in an apparent gang-related encounter just a few days later. My heart grieved for the young man’s family and for Pastor Vernon and his church.
As I reflected on that conversation, my mind went to recent deaths that have been part of my world. One was the passing of my Aunt Darlene who had been in a retirement home and had passed at the age of 91. I did her memorial service last Monday in Wyoming. Another was the mother of Jim Hayes, Pastor of Cornerstone Church in LaVista. He called and asked me to preach for him last Sunday as he would be going to California because his mom was placed on hospice; however, she passed away as he was en route. A third was the mother of Pastor John Hart of Faith Family in Tekamah. I talked to him a couple of weeks ago as he was returning from Colorado where he had visited his mother. Last Thursday he sent me a text to let me know she had gone “home to Jesus.” All three ladies had experienced the joys and challenges of living long lives.
As brothers in Christ and fellow ministers of the Gospel, Pastor Vernon and I share an awful lot in common. But our ministry contexts (who God has called us to minister to on a daily basis) are radically different. It forces me to realize that I can pray for him, encourage him, and extend genuine sympathy to him, but I’m not sure I can truly empathize with him.
The question I’m constantly asking myself is, “How does God want me to be involved?” In my role as a Director of Missions for a very diverse network of churches, I often find myself being moved with compassion because I see so many who are weary. In Matthew 9:35-38, we are told that as our Lord “went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom,” that “He saw the multitudes, and then was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. “ Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
Although my compassion cannot approach that of our Lord nor can it achieve complete empathy in every situation, I can seek to follow His example. I CAN faithfully continue to preach and teach everywhere God sends me to all who are willing to listen. I CAN open my eyes to see and my ears to hear what is happening in the lives of those I encounter. I CAN be moved with compassion knowing that every human soul I encounter is an image-bearer of God and is worthy of being invited into His Kingdom’s harvest. I CAN be part of the solution by becoming a more faithful and obedient laborer myself and by helping to equip other faithful laborers. And I CAN pray that through my simple childlike obedience that the Lord of the Harvest will send more laborers into His harvest.
So let’s all go and make disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples…so that the Light of the World will shine more brightly in the darkness that surrounds us.
Mark is in his twenty-seventh year of serving as an Associational Missions Strategist. He served in western Iowa for almost eight years, and is in his nineteenth year with HCN. He has a passion to see pastors and church leaders grow in their abilities to lead their churches. He continues to have a heart and desire to see new churches planted and God continues to use his strategic thinking skills in this area. Mark also has a wealth of experience in helping churches clarify who God has created them to be, and what they can do best to reach their community. He has had ample opportunities to help churches in times of conflict, and has seen God do exciting things to restore a spirit of harmony, returning churches to a time of fruitfulness. He also helps churches in transition by working with search committees. Mark and Phyllis who were married in November of 2018 have four children and three grandchildren. They will enjoy their combined 87th anniversary in just a few days.