Guest Post by one of International Project’s summer interns.
I have been able to serve as a ministry intern with International Project this summer. Through my internship in NYC, I have gotten to work with many of the unreached people groups in the city and been trained in evangelism and discipleship.
I never thought I would spend two months in NYC. I never thought the nations were here. I never thought I could do this kind of ministry until I was out of college and on the mission field. To say that God gives good gifts would be an understatement.
With all of the experiences I have had, I would love to share four things God taught me during my internship.
1. I am called to love the bride of Christ
If I had to pick the most important lesson that I learned here, it’s that Jesus uses the Church to accomplish His mission. He uses us to reach the lost, to care for one another, and to make His name known. He is using me, and He is using you. Jesus loves the Church, so when I fail to do the same, I fail to conform to the image of Christ.
This is the way that Christ has loved the Church:
“. . . as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
While working with International Project, I learned a whole different way to be the Church. I had never been a part of a house church until this summer. It was a huge blessing to see how the Church operates and conforms to the Bible in a house church setting: multiplying, sanctifying, and allowing the people to minister to one another.
There is something very special about the gathering of God’s people. I was so encouraged by sitting in living rooms and parks and getting to sing and discuss the word of God. I watched the Spirit move so that different members of the house church could be encouraged. I saw families raising their kids to lead in the church, which is such an example and encouragement for me.
My fear in going home is that I will let this experience get in the way of serving my home church or the church I attend at college. To be cynical about the Church is to give up on how Jesus intends to work in the world. I think about 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 and how Christ delights to use us as foolish, weak, lowly, and despised as we are. I was challenged this summer to seek unity in the Church and grow in my love for the body.
To conform to Christ is to love the Church.
2. I am a part of the priesthood of all believers
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
In realizing that I am called to love the Church, I was also reminded that we are called to be the Church. We are ALL called to be the Church.
I have found that in the Church it can often feel like there is a spiritual elite, like ministry is reserved for professional believers or those who have a specific set of skills. This summer I was reminded that this isn’t true. The only thing that qualifies us for service in the Kingdom is a willingness to be obedient. We are all called saints in the Kingdom of God. We are all filled with the Holy Spirit. We have each been chosen.
During Seed Weeks, we often talked about the Samaritan woman (John 4:38-42) and the demon possessed man (Mark 5:20). Were these people formally trained or properly equipped based on our western standards? Definitely not. They were broken people, people who had struggled. The Samaritan Woman’s training was having her adultery and sin exposed by the God of the universe. The demoniac’s seminary was years of being bound and unbound in a cave filled with a legion of demons.
The priesthood of all believers is the call of any and all who were transformed to serve in the Kingdom of God. It’s in this way that we act as the body of Christ: to build up and equip the saints. This is the call for all believers, not just some. This is what it is to be the Church.
I remember praying one day with partners before heading out into the harvest. The guy I prayed with thanked God that he chose to use us and then went to list off all the ways we weren’t qualified. I remember in that moment having reflected on how absurd it was that I can be used in the kingdom.
When I met with the seekers I discipled during my internship, I was serving the Kingdom. When I walked the streets praying over every mosque and religious location we came across, I was serving the Kingdom. When I trained existing believers, I was serving the Kingdom. I had no degree, little experience, and only the desire to be faithful in whatever is asked of me.
To conform to Christ is to be the Church.
3. I serve best when I use my spiritual gifts
Another thing I learned this summer was how God has gifted and equipped me to serve and be the Church. When we aren’t operating in the mission of the Church, I have found that the spiritual gifts won’t be apparent in our lives. But, with all the ministry and evangelism we did this summer, I saw and heard about such a variety of spiritual gifts being expressed amongst the body. In the midst of that, I’ve discovered where I am gifted and how I have been called to operate in the Church.
I will be the first to admit that evangelism is very draining for me. I will do it willingly and joyfully, but it just doesn’t put into practice many of my strengths. I chose this internship because I knew how much I needed to grow in that area. What I loved about my internship was training the volunteers at Seed Week, meeting one on one with seekers, networking with believers, and writing blogs to share with my supporters at home everything I’m learning
Ephesians 4:7,11 comes to mind:
“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. . . And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers”
Each of these five roles exists to build up the Church. After I spent time in prayer, I saw how I fit into the Church and how God has specifically equipped me to build it up. I am definitely a shepherd, just look at the things I just said I enjoyed the most while in my internship. They’re all about caring for people and building them up through relationships.
One such experience, where I was able to act as a shepherd, was while sitting down with two Bengali teenagers at a coffee shop. One was a believer and the other was a muslim. I read the Bible with them and learned about their culture and experiences. It was one of those moments that I still can’t believe happened. I hope my life is filled with moments like these where I can’t believe what God intends to do in people’s lives.
In an effort to more fully understand how I could shepherd others better, I ended up doing a bit of a more in-depth bible study on what it is to be a shepherd. What I loved the most about my study was how many times in the New Testament Jesus is called our shepherd. He is the good Shepherd in John. He is the great Shepherd in Hebrews. He is the chief Shepherd in 1 Peter.
Jesus perfectly fulfills all five of these roles: Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, and Teacher. When I can never be all of them perfectly and I am dependent on the rest of the Church to show up, Jesus has already done it all.
It would be really easy to get comfortable using my gifts to only be a shepherd, but then I would be failing to be like Jesus. To conform to His likeness is to do what He has done; I see that I am called to operate in all of these roles, not because it’s comfortable but because I am called to obedience and service.
To conform to Christ is to serve the Church like He did.
4. I find rest in Jesus
Several times this summer I found myself saying something along the lines of, “I feel like a dead man.” What I meant by that was, “I am so tired. I feel like I am just going through the motions. I need refreshment that only comes from knowing Christ, and I need to rest.”
One particular Saturday when I felt this way, I decided to fast and seek the Lord’s energy. I read the word, prayed, and finally found a less embarrassing spot to sing loudly so I could actually worship the Lord. My little spot was on a flat rock a little ways off the path right next to the East River. It was quiet(ish), which is hard to find in the city
What I learned this summer is that rest amidst ministry has to be focused on Jesus. Although, I also found that rest amidst ministry is sometimes not getting any rest and trusting that Christ is enough on any particular day. Hebrews 4 says that “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” Without God there is no rest, only restlessness.
To conform to Christ is to find His rest.
At the end of the day, we are each called to love the Church, be the Church, serve the Church, and to find rest in Him alone. Serving this summer with International Project opened my eyes to the nations and equipped me to make disciples back at home. I have wanted to do long-term cross-cultural ministry for a long time, and this summer was eye opening to what that might actually be like. Mostly, though, I see one thing that Jesus has impressed on my heart:
It is the delight of life in the Kingdom of God to conform to Jesus Christ.