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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Never knowing the Impact

Recently, my wife and I were driving home from small groups. As we drove, the conversation turned to how the night had gone. Typically, we talk in terms of whether the students were attentive, how certain aspects of the lesson went (or didn’t go) and the overall feeling.

Tonight, though, she surprised me by saying, “I don’t think they got it.” The lesson was on purity, which is definitely a big issue with students, and so it was an important small group topic. But being not only her husband, but the lead youth worker, I wanted to encourage her, not just as my wife but also as an important part of my student ministry team.

So I asked her, “Why don’t you think it went well?” Her response was similar to what I’ve heard before… I don’t think they got it… They didn’t seem to be listening… They mentioned that they were coming for reasons other than the “stellar lessons and in depth Bible Study.” All of that is usual for small groups. We’ve been doing small groups for a while and I have felt that way myself from time to time so I’ve come to expect that feeling. Then she said something that caught me a bit off guard.

Back in September and October (it’s now February), we got connected with a seven or eight week series at Willowcreek Community Church dealing with the Seven Churches in the book of Revelation called “We’ve Got Mail.” The messages were very good and since the church isn’t too far of a drive, we made the weekly trip to catch them.

My wife’s comment to me related to that. She said, “I wish my students would feel the same way about this material as I did about the Revelation series at Willow. It was life-changing and I’m not sure they feel that way about this stuff.”

As I thought for a moment or two, the Holy Spirit gave me just the thought I needed. I asked her, “After the messages were over, did you go down front, shake the speaker’s hand and tell them how powerful and impacting the messages were?” It was a rhetorical question because I had been with her and I already knew she didn’t do that… in fact, we often couldn’t wait to get to the car to begin discussing them between the two of us and how we might apply them. Not a word was said to the speaker that night, but the impact in our lives was unmistakable.

After I asked the question, she caught my drift. We don’t often share the life-changing impact with those who bring it about… a college professor… a speaker at a conference… a friend at small group… or even someone closer… a family member… or even our spouse. But the impact is nonetheless real. As she caught my drift, she began to giggle

As someone who speaks regularly in my student ministry weekend service, occasionally on Sunday morning in main worship and in other situations, I know that there are times when I feel like I totally bombed and messed up a great message that really needed to be heard. In some of those times, God puts just the right person in my path to remind me of the impact that I had but didn’t realize. She began to realize that on any one of those nights Mike Breaux, Gene Appel or Bill Hybels may have gone home from the same service we did feeling like a complete failure and never knowing the incredible impact that they had on us.

What’s the learning? Simple: Never discredit any Godly effort. You never know who is listening, taking mental notes and then applying what they heard and learned even if they don’t act like it in the moment. God’s Spirit can do some incredible things with our efforts if we will just trust him. Even Jesus had to remind his followers that it’s not about our efforts, but more about God’s, “Jesus looked at them (the disciples) and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26 NIV). Keep that in mind the next time you feel like a failure.

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