Being an assistant tennis coach at East Tennessee State University in the mid-90s gave me very flexible summers. I had known about the ministry of Jews for Jesus for several years and had determined to participate in Summer Campaign in 1997. Summer Campaign was a six-week ministry that focused on street evangelism. The program would entail a two-week training in Chicago at Moody Bible Institute, followed up by four weeks on the streets of the Big Apple—New York City. I had never handed out a gospel track in my life, yet I wanted to apply for a position on the ministry team.
The team recruiter, a man named Stephen, noticed I had listed guitar as a hobby on my application. After talking about Summer Campaign, he then asked if I’d be interested in also applying for a position on the mobile evangelistic music team of the ministry called “The Liberated Wailing Wall.” It was a traveling ministry team that proclaimed the gospel through music, drama, and testimony in churches and on Christian college campuses. The group also did evangelistic outreaches on secular college campuses and in big cities. If you’re wondering what the presentations looked like, picture in your mind Fiddler on the Roof meets Jesus.
I had seen this music team when it came through Tennessee and they were very talented. I reminded Stephen that I listed guitar as a hobby. I could play basic chords and occasionally led worship during our singles group at church and at a campus fellowship. You know, songs like “Shine Jesus Shine” -simple songs with very simple chord progressions. “I’m not a musician!”
Stephen then posed a question that rocked my world and if you are honest, will rock yours. He said,
“Are you willing to make yourself available to God?”
After processing what he was saying, I did a double take. I didn’t say, “Sure, what do you have for me?” Or better yet – “What does God have for me?” No! I said something like, “Available for what?” He then challenged me to pray about applying for a position on the music team. That was the spring of 1996.
I wrestled with this question for about three months. Finally, I decided to apply. I had Jim, our church’s music minister, record three songs I had the most confidence in performing. I had never recorded a demo tape before. After sending my application for the music team to Jews for Jesus in the fall, I chuckled and thought, “I’m no musician!”
A few months later, I received a call from Stephen in December. He said, “Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to Summer Campaign and you’ve been accepted for a position on the Liberated Wailing Wall. Pack your bags. You’re moving.” I was stunned.
You see, with one phone call, that six-week, short-term summer ministry trip turned into a two-year, full-time ministry commitment. In June of 1997, I moved from Johnson City, Tennessee with no more than a twenty-nine inch hard shell suitcase, a book bag, and my guitar. During that time God transformed my life in a massive way.
I served on the short-term evangelism team that summer, then worked five months in San Francisco, preparing for a seventeen-month tour of ministry with the music team. For fifteen months our music team toured North America, then spent two months touring internationally, which included stops in England, South Africa, and Australia. Oh, what a ride!
That two-year ministry commitment in the late 1990s was life-changing for me and my wife Lori, whom I met during that time – for we were both serving in the ministry. After taking a three-year break from vocational ministry from 1999-2002, we moved to New York City, where I served from 2003 to 2009 as a missionary to my Jewish people. I can attest that who I am as a minister of the gospel today is a result of that one decision I made many years ago.
And how did it all start? By simply answering “yes” to the profound, life-transforming and sometimes daunting question:
“Are you willing to make yourself available to God?”
While I wrestled with making myself available to God in that situation many years ago, the prophet Isaiah freely exhibited availability to the Lord:
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” – Isaiah 6:8.
What great faith demonstrated by Isaiah! The prophet made Himself available to God before he even received his marching orders, for he was walking “by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
When God did give Isaiah his assignment, it was not going to be a bed of roses. In fact, the Lord called Isaiah to bring a message of judgement to a people who were in utter rebellion, unresponsive to God:
And He said, “Go, and tell this people:‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
– Isaiah 6:9
It was not an easy road for Isaiah. Yet he prophesied at least 4 decades! At the end of his ministry, according to Jewish tradition, Isaiah was ultimately sawn in half by Manasseh, the impious king of Judah.
In Isaiah’s case, there was no hesitation in answering God’s call to go and witness. And his saying yes to God led to decades of service, ultimately leading to martyrdom. In my case, I initially struggled with that call to make myself available to God those many years ago. Yet, saying yes to God propelled me into years of vocational Christian ministry, with my story still unfolding.
How about you today? Perhaps you’re grappling with that daunting question, “Are you willing to make yourself available to God?” It may involve your witness in a vocational sense, or it could simply be a call to make yourself available to go and be a witness to a friend, family member, business associate, classmate or other person in your sphere of influence. Interestingly, saying “yes” could change the direction of your life, or it could change the course of another’s life.
I don’t know what that challenge means for you today, and certainly don’t know what “Yes” will mean for you, yet the question remains. What say you?