Monday, July 7, 2008

Ushers, Get the Plates!

My family and I recently attended four days of seminars on “Evangelism to World Religions,” led by Ron Carlson. He is an excellent communicator. Ron, his wife Marge and their two young sons served in the Philippines with ACTION for one year in the 1980s. He spoke and conducted lectures throughout the Philippines and instructed many pastors and Christian workers on how to share the gospel to the cults. It was a great year of ministry!

Upon return to their large home church in the Minneapolis area, Ron was asked to give a report on his year in the Philippines on a Sunday evening. During his report, he shared how ACTION had a real burden to start a ministry among the 50,000 prostitutes in downtown Manila. However, he said that we were not able to start a ministry because we had made a decision that until we had a budget for one year of ministry, we would not begin. The budget would include the rental of a facility for evangelism and counseling ministry, support for a large team of godly Filipino ladies for evangelism and discipleship, a small van, discipleship material, food and many other expenses. As the budget was $55,000, Ron said that we would probably never begin because, as a small mission, how could we ever come up with that huge amount of money?

As he continued his report, he began to hear people tear checks out of their checkbooks. He suddenly realized what was happening, and because the elders had informed him that they would not be taking an offering, he stopped and said, “I think you might be writing checks for ACTION’s ministry, but please do not do so, as we have no permission to take an offering.” However, the people continued to write checks and there was a continuous rustling noise of checks being torn out of checkbooks.

Ron began to cry, basically in fear of getting in trouble with the church and the elders. At that moment, the chairman of the elders stood up and slowly walked up to the platform, put his arm around Ron, and said, “Ron, I am the new chairman of the elders and you are not in trouble.” Then, looking to the audience, he said, “Ushers, get the plates!” The ushers began to pass the offering plates randomly throughout the church, collecting a cash offering of $55,400!

The money was used for a one-year ministry, right in the heart of the area of Manila given over to prostitution, with many people being trained in working with the girls involved. Nearly 900 of these ladies of the night indicated coming to faith in Christ, and many of them left this wicked profession.

In the last meeting recently with Ron, the pastor said he felt he should take an offering to raise $10,000 to print Ron’s book in Italian for use in Italy. This was not a planned offering and was a real testimony and encouragement to all when the pastor shared the need. He then said, “Ushers, get the plates.”

Friends, as God leads you among your people, always be ready when there is a need and you sense that God’s people want to do something about that need to encourage and challenge them and simply say, “Let’s, get the plates! Let’s do something about this need for the glory of God.”

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