19 April 2011

Coffee, Tea, or Verizon?

Dear Lissy,
Many people don't know that My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers was compiled by his wife after his untimely death. Biddy's lifelong passion for putting into print the thousands of his sermons and lessons she had recorded verbatim in shorthand resulted in a library of his works that still instructs and blesses millions of Christians every year.

Fewer still know that her ministry while here on earth focused primarily on what she lovingly called "The Ministry of the Teapot".  When she saw a precious soul headed down the lane, she'd put away her typing and brew a pot of tea.  People from all over England poured out their hearts and troubles to this dear widow.

One of my favorite books, First We Have Coffee, and Then We Talk chronicles another exceptional pastor's wife, Ella Tweten.  Her daughter Margaret, the author of the book, recalls how "she blended love and compassion with Papa's theology," as she quietly listened to hundreds of people share their trials and temptations over a cup of smooth Swedish brew.

Your own beloved Grammy Julie has ministered in this way for as long as I can remember, often by phone.  God also moved my heart in that direction in my mid 30's, and it has been the greatest blessing of my life. My ministry is often by e-mail or text, but we go through more than our fair share of coffee, too.   While it has certainly become a catch phrase recently, "life touching life" ministry is nothing new.

If you are willing to have an open home and an open schedule you will have the ability to minister in ways that no one else can.

During your 20's and 30's this ministry primarily revolves around providing companionship for the elderly and lonely.  One of my favorite memories is traveling to an elderly saint's home with my friend Holly and our two newborns.  I expected a lively discussion on bunions, and instead spent the afternoon laughing and playing cards.  When Dad and I were newlyweds working at a Christian college we thoroughly enjoyed packing our four six-foot tall "campus sons" into a Nissan Sentra and bringing them home for dinner and games.

Most people don't need information,  they need inspiration.
As you grow in wisdom and grace, God will send people to you that need your help to see His working in their lives.  They will often be people who you consider "more spiritual" than yourself, which will be incredibly humbling.  All of these people will be used by God to work in your life, too.  This isn't a one-way street!

Remember these few important principles Dr. Olilla teaches from 2 Kings 4 for an effective "life touching life" ministry whether you have an apartment full of Jr. High girls in for a sleepover or a godly, broken-hearted saint pouring out her story over a cup of tea.

2 Prerequisites for life touching life ministry
A close personal walk with the Lord.
A genuine love for the person you are ministering to.
If either half of that equation is missing, they will sense it, and will not open up to you.  The Shunamite woman didn't disclose her heartache to Gehazi, she waited for Elisha.

Compassion is communicated through closeness.  Stop what you are doing.  Take time to sit with the person you are ministering to and look them in the eye.  Focus on them alone so they know that what they have to say is important to you.  Hugs, a hand over their hand, or other physical touch is essential.  Train your kids not to interrupt "coffee time".

**Set limits from the beginning.  Very few people are accustomed to this level of attention even from their spouse.  There are a few who will take advantage of your time and attention.  You are not God, you are simply his tool.  Don't let them lean on you in place of God.**

Privacy is paramount.  Plan time to meet with the person alone.  Keep conversations and meetings private.   One incident of gossip will likely end your entire ministry.

Personal discipline is vital.  
Prayer:  Each person you are endeavoring to help needs to be in your prayers regularly.  God is not asking you to share your opinion, He wants you to remind them of His person, Word, and works.
Pay the Price:  You must be dead to self.  God desires to work on another person's heart through you. Your own preferences and "rights" set you up for certain failure.
Perseverance:  You MUST stick with the person until God has completed His work in their heart.  Giving up half way through is not an option.  You need to follow up with them regularly, not assume that they will come back to you.  Many people are willing to start someone out on the right path, very few are willing to walk it with them.  Be the one who walks alongside straight through to the destination.

I don't know if God will call you to a ministry of the teapot or not, but I certainly hope you will have that privilege.  Your great-great grammy Ada, great grammy Lyda, Grammy Julie, and I have all poured out our lives into others' hearts, and found that we couldn't outpour God.  Grammy and I have both had our turns at speaking and teaching ladies' groups, and vastly prefer the quietness of heart to heart ministry whether it's investing in our own children or a sister in Christ.  I guess you could say it suits us to a "tea"!

I am in a season of life right now where God is sending me to others he's given a heart for life-touching-life ministry for comfort and encouragement.  He is allowing me to see firsthand  the impact that simply listening to someone, praying with them, and reassuring them of God's love can have on their lives.  Sometimes you're the one brewing, sometimes you're the one sipping, but God's always the One working.

Much love,



  1. Loved this Rebecca. Lovely post!
    And I am in New England as well.:)
    Sarah Beals

  2. It's a small world, Sarah! I was privileged to attend your workshop on joy at NELC a couple of weeks ago. I think our husbands were roomies during a grad school session out at Northland, too :-)
    I enjoyed your post on Easter traditions but it wouldn't let me comment.
    Have a wonderful Easter Sunday with your family and church family.

  3. Nope, that was my brother in laws wife, Robin. My husband and her husband are both in ministry together.:) It is a family thing.
    I can't figure out why my comments aren't working...still new to this whole thing.
    Have a wonderful Easter.
    I plan to link to your article in my Friday post which is usually a compilation of lots of stuff I loved during the week.

  4. What a sweet post. I did not know that about Biddy Chambers! But I do love that book. I love the timelessness of having a good chat over a cup of coffee!