It was a question that changed my life.
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 and then 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 that I had listed guitar as a hobby on my application. He 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 team also did evangelistic outreaches on secular college campuses and in big cities. If you’re wondering what the presentations were 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 campus fellowship. You know, songs like “Shine Jesus Shine” with very simple chord progressions. “I’m not a musician.”
Stephen then posed a question that rocked my world. 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, “What does God have for me?” No, I said something like, “Available for what?” He challenged me to pray about applying for a position on the music team. That was the spring of 1996.
I wrestled with the question for a couple of months. Finally, I decided to apply. I had Jim, my 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.”
In December, I received a call from Stephen. “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 shocked.
With one phone call, that six-week, short-term ministry trip turned into a two-year, full-time ministry commitment. I moved from Johnson City, Tennessee in June 1997 with no more than a twenty- nine inch hard shell suitcase, a book bag, and my guitar. During that time God transformed my life.
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 I toured North America, then spent two months touring internationally, which included stops in England, South Africa, and Australia.
That two-year ministry commitment in the late 1990s was life-changing for me and my wife Lori, whom I met during that time. After taking a three-year break from vocational ministry, we went to New York City where I served from 2003 to 2009 as a missionary to my Jewish people. Today, in 2021, I thank the Lord for that time and still count those years in the Big Apple as a wonderful and critical time of growth and development as a minister of the gospel.
And how did it all start? By simply answering, “Yes” to the profound, challenging, life-transforming question: “Are you willing to make yourself available to God?”
I don’t know what that challenge means for you today, and certainly don’t know what “Yes” may mean for you, yet the question remains. What will your answer be?
Availability is an important part of the evangelistic process, because we won’t go anywhere, do anything, or talk to anyone for Jesus’ sake unless we first have the will to be a witness.
The Word of God provides us examples of people making themselves available and willing to serve the Lord.
For one, when God called Abraham out of the city of Ur and told him to leave everything he knew—his family, his country—to go to a land that God would show him, Abraham went.
Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of our country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him” (Genesis 12:1–4).
Simple, yet profound and life-changing. This call was so transformative that God gave Abram a new name, indicating a new season and a new purpose in his life. Abram became Abraham.
We don’t see Abram questioning the Lord: “Lord, can you give me a map? What’s it going to be like there? Can you elaborate a bit? I want to know what I’m getting myself into here.” No, he simply followed.
As we walk by faith in the evangelistic adventure, we should have confidence in these realities:
We know the Lord.
We know He’s in control.
We know He seeks the best for us and others.
We know He’ll provide every spiritual resource as we’re obedient to the call.
We know the need.
We know our responsibility to be a witness.
What don’t we know?
How it’s all going to work.
What exactly is going to happen.
So let’s make ourselves available to God. And when we hear Him say, “Whom shall I send, And who will go for us?”—May our answer echo the words of the prophet Isaiah when he replied, “Here am I Lord—send me” (Isaiah 6:8).