I remember one of my professors and mentors who admonished our class with this simple statement: “Light lights, don’t curse the darkness!” He often repeated the phrase when we were discussing challenging things in the church or the world around us. It is a line that I have never forgotten and I have used in my walk with Jesus. It is a simple reminder to not “camp out on the negatives,” but instead, to be positive and point men and women to Jesus.
I put this principle to work very early in my ministry. My first pastoral assignment was rather unique; I was asked to accept an assignment that most didn’t want to take. I was asked to pastor a church that nobody wanted. I was told how horrible the members were. The conference president painted a stark picture of a group of people who were cranky, opinionated and ornery. When I arrived that fall, I was the fourth pastor to come to the church within a space of one year!
I remember asking my dad, a seasoned and experienced pastor, for his counsel. He simply said, “Kill them with kindness.”
And that is what my wife, LaVonne, and I did. Every chance, every opportunity we found, we were positive and encouraging. This little group of 15 or so individuals were our project for Jesus. We visited them, loved them and listened to them. We responded with grace and uplifted Jesus the best way we knew how as young people.
Part of our strategy was to add flavor to life by sharing that whatever the members wanted to do for Jesus was possible. We would help! Another part of the strategy was to make ministry fun. We got together and roasted marshmallows and veggie hot dogs. We made weekends special by camping out together as a church. Sometimes we worked on a project at the church. On one occasion, we braved a blizzard to make it to a member’s home on a Saturday night for a church social. Another time, I crawled under a member’s combine and helped him fix his machinery for the upcoming harvest.
What developed was a bond and a friendship that has lasted more than 35 years. Together we built up the church and we praised God with great joy. We built each other up, and as we did, people in the community witnessed the change. Many were ready to find out more and become a part of the family!
Over a period of four years, our church family grew from 15 to 73. There was nothing fancy, no “magic bullet” that caused this change. We simply gave our lives to the Lord and to the church members. And God took care of all the rest!
Jesus understood it well when He delivered His message on the hillside centuries ago: , “You are the salt of the earth…you are the light of the world…in the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:13, 14, 16 NLT.) May you find ways to “light lights and don’t curse the darkness.”
By Richard C. Dye, Sr., President