Joy

My friend Don invited me to accompany him and his son on a mission trip to Ghana thirteen years ago. While we were in country, we visited schools, churches, and prisons. We were hosted by a remarkable man, James Baidoo, whose passion for Christ and for His church was incredibly inspiring. While pastoring his church, he was mentoring young leaders and planting new churches. His access to high government officials opened doors for us to share the Gospel in a variety of settings.

We went to several prisons where I preached in conditions that would make American prisons look like plush resorts. On one of those occasions, we were standing in an open courtyard. Above us in a cell block, a group of Muslims were shouting, trying to drown out our worship service. Everywhere we went, there was a hunger for the hope of the Gospel.

We attended several worship services with James and his people. Listening to some of his prize students in Bible study and worship, we realized that God’s work was being done with skill and devotion. Speaking to those congregations through an interpreter was both challenging and rewarding. The people were engaged and vocal as they heard God’s Word. There were times when I was pretty certain that the interpreter was preaching a better sermon than I was!

There were many lasting impressions from our time in Ghana. James, in humility and joy, let us see his handiwork among students his churches sponsored; in prison ministry where he developed teachers, leaders, and counselors; and in churches where he mentored those who were discipling new  believers and leading new congregations.

As encouraging as these scenarios were to each of us, our best shared moments occurred when these Christians in Ghana gave their offerings. I can only describe it as a demonstration of joy. Several offerings were taken in each service. There were different purpose for each. There were no wealthy people present; many had little to give … but they gave. Plates were not passed. People didn’t walk forward to put their gifts in a receptacle. No, they danced to the altar, singing and laughing.

Everybody participated, including the three Americans. I have video of those moments. I will be glad to share that with you for a fee.

It was such an honor to be among such people. We were humbled by their hospitality and their dedication. We learned a great deal from a gifted leader and a joyous people.

All of that experience flooded back to me this week. I want that joy in my life and in yours. We probably won’t be instituting an offering dance any time soon, but we need to exhibit more joy in our worship and certainly in our giving.

Most of you understand that our ministry budget calls for weekly income just above $30,000. The last four Sundays our offerings have totaled: 8/31 – $9,949; 9/7 – $21,369; 9/14 – $19,584; and 9/21 – $10,215. You don’t need a major in math to know we cannot continue like this. No, we won’t be dancing to the front this week, but inserting some joy and dedication could really help

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About Mark Wilbanks

Dr. Wilbanks became Wieuca’s fifth senior pastor in February of 2012. Mark’s father, Oliver Wilbanks, served as Associate Pastor here from 1966 to 1982. Wieuca had a tremendous influence in shaping Mark’s call to ministry during his teenage and young adult years. A graduate of both Southern and New Orleans Baptist Theological seminaries, Mark has served churches in Kentucky, Florida, and Georgia. He pastored Southside Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida for 17 years and Bradfordville First Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Florida for ten years. He and his wife, Kim, were married in 1979 and have two sons, Andy and Jordan. Andy is married to Lindsay and they have a son, Cade, a daughter, Ruthie, and welcomed their third child, Samuel, in October.

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