by Jill St. John
“The church should really do something about .”
“The church could really use someone who could .”
Do those words ring as familiar to you as they do to me? All kinds of things can fill in those blanks. Usually, I whole-heartedly agree when people come to me with those “shoulds” and “coulds.” The Church really should do something about whatever it is, and the Church really could use someone who could do all the things! Our community and church family have so many needs. Ultimately, Jesus is the answer, and thus His Church is the answer. And, how do we actually go about meeting those needs? More specifically, how do I actually go about meeting needs when I feel like I am not enough and that what I offer is not enough?
The disciples were struggling with something to this effect in Mark 8.
During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with Me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
The disciples were doing the math: 4,000 hungry men + women and children + no food = 1 hunger + angry (“hangry”) disaster waiting to happen! I grew up on a farm in South Dakota in a remote place; the nearest supermarket was seven miles away. That’s not very far by car, but as I put myself in this pre-automobile setting with Jesus and His disciples, I imagine being on the farm, surrounded by thousands of hungry people. I probably would have panicked and figured out how to slip away unnoticed before a ravenous riot ensued!
But not Jesus. He was driven by compassion and was about to band together with His team and throw down a Miracle Picnic. According to Merriam-Webster¹, Jesus had compassion--“a sympathetic conscious-ness of others' distress, together with a desire to alleviate it.” And He invited the disciples to consider with Him how they could act in compassion to do something for the hungry people.
The disciples were asking, "Where can we get enough bread to meet this enormous need?" Jesus asked, “How many loaves do you have?” (Mark 8:5 NIV) The disciples were looking at the lack; Jesus was looking at the disciples. What do you have? Jesus is saying: Let’s start where we are with what we have. What resources do you have that don’t seem like enough? They had seven loaves and a few small fish. The disciples handed over to Jesus that seemingly insufficient offering. He instructed the throng of thousands to sit on the ground; it was time for a Miracle Picnic! Jesus took that little bit of food, gave thanks to the Father for it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples to feed the people (Mark 8:5-7).
Verse 8 describes how it turned out: The people--we can safely infer that this includes ALL OF THE PEOPLE--ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. Miracle Picnic indeed--plus leftovers! Won’t He do it?!
Fresh lessons abound from this familiar passage. When I am faced with a need, or that familiar phrase, “The Church really should or really needs,” Jesus asks what I have to offer. Not what I wish I had to offer. Not what others have to offer that I would like to have to offer. Not even what others seem to wish that I had to offer. He is asking what is in my hands; what is within my abilities and capacity? As I offer that to Jesus, inadequate though it usually seems, He takes it. He never rejects it or says: That’s all? It is so humbling to think of this pattern that our Savior, King of Kings Jesus, takes what we give Him, thanks God for it, then multiplies it to meet needs.
Miracle Picnics of provision have been part of my experience of Jesus “feeding” me so many times through the offerings of others. I think of Don and Connie, my Sunday School Teachers/Small Group Leaders when I was a new believer, freshly saved out of a pit. They owned a small sporting goods store and were a part of Wellesley Park Assembly of God in Wayland, Massachusetts. (How did a farm girl from South Dakota end up in a suburb of Boston? That’s for another blog!) They had love, time, and kindness that they offered to Jesus. He thanked God for it, multiplied it, and applied it with His compassion to the needs of my life, as well as many other young adults in our church. My hunger or need was to experience and receive God’s healing and freeing love. Jesus met that need through Don’s and Connie’s love and discipleship of me. It came by way of their example of giving what they had: opening their home, feeding me actual food, and teaching me God’s Word. They did not have divinity degrees nor formal training of any kind. What they had was kindness and love; Jesus took and multiplied that, bringing restoration and nourishment to every part of my life. God used what they offered to build His foundation in my life, leading to His call and to my serving as an ordained minister. Using their example, along with countless others, I go about serving and ministering, offering what I have to Jesus to multiply and meet needs.
What we offer is enough because He is more than enough!
Jill St. John, once a high school English teacher, is an ordained minister in the Assemblies of God. She serves as Co-Pastor alongside her husband, Jason. For the last 23 years, they have served at Evangel Church in Kansas City--6 years as youth pastors, and 17 years as lead pastors. Jill has a passion for Jesus and a zeal for teaching God’s Word, helping others walk in God’s love and purpose. As a 4-time cancer survivor, she knows the goodness of God through the highs and lows of life and ministry. Jill is an authentic, enthusiastic messenger of God’s joy and hope. Teaching, cooking, laughing, and hanging out with her husband and two children are the delights of her life!
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