I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
While I became a literature evangelist in 1990, it just occurred to me, that it has now been 20 years since I first became a Bible Worker in the Owasso-Claremore district of the Oklahoma Seventh-day Adventist Conference in 1993. A lot of water has passed under the bridge and through the baptisteries since then, and over time I would like to share some of my experiences over the last twenty years. Tonight, I would like to begin with a list of twenty things I have learned in twenty years of Bible Work. Please enjoy.
Twenty Things I’ve Learned in Twenty Years
1. Don’t take it personally when people love you. That’s right when they love you. After leaving a district in Oklahoma, I went to work in a three church district in the Fort Worth-West Texas area. Everyone loved and supported me so much I started thinking I was a good Bible Worker. Fact is I was very inexperienced and was making mistakes left and right. After a few years I finally woke up and realized, these people don’t love me because I am good Bible Worker, they love me because they are kindhearted loving people. They were so good they could love anybody. Even me. Lesson learned: Just because people love you, it doesn’t mean you are good.
2. Ask people if they like to read out loud before you ask them to read a Bible verse. You would not believe how many adults can’t read well or at all. Don’t embarrass them.
3. Don’t assume people know where the books of the Bible are. You may know where to find Main Street in your hometown, but that’s because you grew up there.
4. Try to keep your Bible Studies just under an hour. Even less for kids and teens. Leave them wanting more, instead of just wanting you to leave. If they keep asking questions, that’s fine. You can stay longer.
5. Don’t send people on a guilt trip for missing or cancelling a Bible study. When they call and say “we are just too tired” tell them to get plenty of rest, have a good week and you will see them next week.
6. Be flexible. I am a Bible Worker. That means I teach the Bible and encourage my Bible students to search the Scriptures and do their lessons. At the same time I have learned that I also have to be prepared to not give a Bible study. A while back I was studying with a lady who would meet me after work and talk about her work problems, before I would finally stop her and begin the study. One week we met and I decided I was just going to listen and not say a word until she quit talking. About an hour later she stopped talking. I had a prayer and she went home happy. Another time I was studying with a married couple who had toddlers and a lot of stress. After several weeks of studies, I told them the next week when I came by, instead of having a Bible Study I would be taking them out to eat at the local Mexican Restaurant, nothing fancy. They got grandma to babysit and when I picked them up they were all dressed up like we were going someplace ritzy. I don’t know how long it had been since they had a night out, but it turned out to mean more to them than I imagined.
7. Ask your Bible students to do three or four lessons a week, so maybe they will do at least one.
8. Be very punctual and dependable with your appointments, but if you have an appointment tonight with someone who has already stood you up three times in a row, and someone else calls and says they have free tickets to tonight’s game, go to the game. Odds are your appointment was going to fall through anyway. Nothing I hate more than turning down an invite so I can keep an appointment with someone who is going to stand me up. Of course don’t stand them up. Call and reschedule.
9. In the past, a new Bible study student would call and talk my ear off while my dinner grew cold, about his theory of UFOs and Martian invasions. I don’t let that happen anymore. I finally realize the difference between people God has put in my path, and people Satan has put in my path just to distract me from the people God has put in my path.
10. If a woman calls you at 12:30 in the morning, and says, “I would not have called this late, but I just drove by your place, and saw your lights on,” be sure you keep your distance from this woman.
11. Don’t take money from a woman who takes you out to eat, and then tries to slip you $100.00 for gas for your car and ministry. Believe me. It’s not really for gas or your ministry. I found that out when she called me at 12:30 in the morning when she “just happened to be passing by my place.” Dodged that bullet. Thank you Jesus!
12. I know you are not going to believe me, but I am going to tell you anyway because it’s the truth. Whenever someone mails in a Bible Study request card, do not call them! Just show up at their house. You will never get an initial Bible study appointment from calling them first. Never. I have been doing this 20 years and I swear it never works! You can call and ask if they want Bible studies, and then just tell them you will drop them by sometime, but if you try to set up an initial visit over the phone it will never work! Never! Let me guess, you are still going to call aren’t you? Okay, don’t be surprised if 20 years later it has never worked.
13. When you get a request for Bible studies 100 miles away, just mail the request to a church in that area. However, if they are 15 miles or so away, go see them yourself, even if it is just outside your area. Don’t mail the card to the church in that area. I hate to say it, but odds are nothing is going to happen with it. Do it yourself so you know it’s been done. If the people are interested and you get a study going, and decide it’s too far away for you to drive, invite someone from that church in the actual area to come with you a couple times, and then they take over the study.
14. Don’t let people send you on guilt trips for not doing tasks they should be doing. You don’t have to do everything that the church needs done. I bet other people go to your church besides just you, so why are you doing all the work? Because no one else will do it? That doesn’t make it your problem. You are not the Savior of the world, so don’t let people lay that responsibility on you.
15. Jesus is your pastor. The first thing I noticed working in a three church district was, I was always where the Lead pastor was not. I felt like I did not have a pastor, until an elderly mentor pointed out to me that psalms 23:1 says the Lord is my pastor. (Shepherd in English, Pastor in Spanish. Same thing.) When Samuel died in the middle of David’s crisis with Saul, David wondered who was going to help him now. In psalms 121 he declared God would be His helper.
16. Write down where you preach each sermon. It’s so embarrassing to preach the same sermon twice in the same church.
17. Be leery of the church member who keeps boasting all the time about being vegan. Like the car salesman who keeps talking about the nice stereo, hoping you will like the stereo so much, that you won’t notice the car has no tires, so the member boasting about their diet is hoping to divert your attention so you won’t notice their porn addiction.
18. Don’t waste so much time trying to make other people interested in the Bible, that you neglect the people who already are interested.
19. Whenever you enter a home, unless you are sure the entire family knows you are there, try to sit with your back to the hallway. Just trust me on this.
20. A good night’s sleep will solve most of your problems. A lot of the things that worry you are not even worth worrying about. They are just little distractions trying to get your mind off the big picture and greater purpose of your ministry. Instead of obsessing over things, keep busy and play a little golf to keep things balanced. The more balanced your routine the less you will find yourself obsessing over things.