Sunday, September 5, 2010


I was raised as a Roman Catholic. When I came to know the Lord at the age of eighteen, I remained a Roman Catholic for the next few years. During that period of time, I felt a calling to the pastoral ministry, and I left the Catholic Church to pursue my ministerial studies. I joined an African-American Holiness Church where I was mentored by the pastor, who became my spiritual father in the faith.

It was right after I got saved, before I even left the Catholic Church, that the words of our Lord came to pass, ”I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” The division was between my mother and me. She did not like the fact that I was now “religious.” Things got worse when I left the Catholic Church. For years, all I heard from my mother was, “but what made you change?” Meaning, why did you get so religious and leave the Catholic Church? Paradoxically, she was the proud mother of a minister, always telling people that her son would perform their wedding ceremony or officiate at someone's funeral.

But at the same time, she would occasionally ask me what made me change. Every time that she would ask that question I would answer with the salvation message or another word from the Bible, or I would explain that this was what the Lord had called me to do. Nothing that I said would satisfy her.

One time when she asked, I got distraught. However, my response this time was, I believe, a word from the Holy Spirit. I said, ”Mom, didn't you and dad raise Johnny (my younger brother) and me to help other people?” “Yes,” she responded. “Well,” I replied, “that's what I'm doing, I'm helping people.” That was the last time that she asked me that question.

All Christians, not just the clergy, should be helping people, whether they are believers or not. Jesus ministered to all people. For example, Jesus ministered to His disciples, as well as the Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman. He didn't ask them where they were spiritually, he ministered to their needs whether they were spiritual or physical.

The Apostle Paul's exhortation in Galatians 6:10 is, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (italics mine)

There are so many ways that we can let our light shine in a world of darkness. Sometimes it's just simple things that can mean so much to a person. Letting a person know that you are available to assist them in any way you can is very encouraging. It's so nice to know that they are not alone. Someone cares about me!

So many people identify with the psalmist and say, “I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me.” Psalm 142:4, New Living Translation.

So then, what are some of the ways that we can help and encourage someone who feels like that?

Here are a few suggestions:

A simple phone call or email or a greeting card saying that they are in your thoughts and prayers goes a long way. Let them know also that you are available to talk and pray.

Love them and show compassion! If the person has committed sin or hasn't been to church in a while, don't make them feel guilty or condemned, show them the love and compassion of Jesus. Remember that we are His ambassadors, we represent the Lord!

One thing that is a great help to people is just to listen to them. So many times I wouldn't have an answer to a person's dilemma or I didn't know what to say, but they were so grateful that I just listened to what they had to say. Show empathy, show an interest in them and what they are saying and how they feel. In his book, How to Be a People Helper, Dr. Gary Collins writes about the importance of listening to others, “An unwillingness to listen can sometimes be a great obstacle to helping. […] Our task as helpers is to understand the helpee and show by our listening that we care.”

A number of years ago, heading home from Boston on the train I got into a conversation with a woman from Los Angeles. She had just dropped her daughter off at Harvard, and she was so distraught at the thought that her daughter would be 3,000 miles from home for the next four years. She poured her heart out to me the entire train ride to the airport. At one point, she said that she is not the type of person who would share things with a complete stranger. When I told her that I was a minister, she said that she wasn't surprised, because I listened to her and showed concern.

When she departed the train and walked up the stairs towards the airport, she turned and smiled and waved at me. I didn't have to say anything. I didn't have to give counsel or suggest she read a book on empty nest syndrome. All I did was listen to her and, having two daughters myself, I was able to show empathy. Although I didn't get the opportunity to pray and witness to her, the Lord brings her to mind from time to time, and I do ask that He would bless her and her family.

Like Jesus, be a servant. Find out what a person's needs are and serve them. Ask the Lord to give you opportunities to be an encourager to one that is hurting. Also, tell your pastor that you are willing to be a servant in the house of the Lord and you want to be put to work in the church. Oh, how we pastors love to hear that!

“Be sure to use the abilities God has given you […]. Put these abilities to work; throw yourself into your tasks […]. Keep a close watch on all you do and think. Stay true to what is right and God will bless you and use you to help others.” 1 Timothy 4:14-16, The Living Bible.

Lord bless you as you serve Him by helping others. Amen!