” . . . according to the needs of the people.”

“The group of believers was one in mind and heart. None of them said that any of their belongings were their own, but they all shared with one another everything they had.  With great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God poured rich blessings on them all.  There was no one in the group who was in need. Those who owned fields or houses would sell them, bring the money received from the sale,  and turn it over to the apostles; and the money was distributed according to the needs of the people.”  (Acts 4:32-35)

Okay, the photo shows my office that actually serves as a warehouse for ministry (at least that’s what I call it).  From drums and equipment to stacks of boxes filled with items for one of our latest ministries, the various items threaten to squeeze me into a smaller and smaller work space.  I’ve asked the trustees for a second-story loft, but they haven’t seemed too keen on the idea.

This is my fortieth year of ministry.  The boxes in my office remind me of something that has bothered me throughout those forty years – “spiritual get rich schemes.”  Oh, I don’t mean actual monetary get rich schemes, I mean one recipe after another touted as the way to make your church and ministry grow.  I have an extreme aversion for those sorts of recipes.  I’ve attended my share of the workshops over the years, and respectfully listened to the ideas.  I always remind myself that they might be speaking to someone.

My sense (and history) is that authentic ministry is about listening to the needs of the community, and responding to those needs with various means of proclaiming the love of God in Jesus Christ.  That’s how I’ve seen God’s love spring to life, seeds of salvation planted, and disciples nurtured and challenged.  My sense is that’s the model the early church was using during the time recorded in the book of Acts.  I want to share a couple of our recent experiences.

The first is our thrift store called, The Church Mouse.  Youth and adults from our church visited and worked in thrift store ministries in other states.  They returned and started looking around our community.  The were “listening,” if you will.  They noticed that their community had changed from a mainly comfortable suburb of the capitol city, to a mixed community with a fair amount of poverty and crime.  They asked, “Why don’t we offer some sort of thrift store ministry in our community?”  The seed was planted, the doors were opened, and the ministry exploded.  Funds from sales are used to fund other mission activities of the church in the community.  The store is also another doorway to Jesus.  Folks often stop by to find a listening ear or to drop a note in the prayer request box.  God’s love in Christ is transforming lives.

The second new ministry involves the growing drug epidemic in our community.  My wife, Patti, is a nurse in the newborn nursery and NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit) at Thomas Memorial Hospital.  There are an increasing number of babies born addicted to drugs, who must be weaned off of the drugs before they can leave the hospital.  The babies are placed in the NICU for several days.  Their withdrawal is a painful process in which there is a very persistent need for soothing.  Patti and other nurses noticed that the babies were soothed by music.  Nurses were purchasing various toys to try to offer help.  Patti came up with the idea of giving each baby in the NICU a small stuffed owl that played music for several minutes at a time.  Our church agreed to fund the program and the hospital administration agreed to try it.  Each child in the NICU now receives one of the animals (we’ve had to change to giraffes due to manufacturing issues) inside a bag with a note that tells the family the toy is a gift of God’s love along with prayers from our church.  The family gets to take the toy home with them.  The Church Mouse funded the first shipment of the toys.

In the first year we’ve given out over one hundred of the owls.  The stack of boxes you see in my office in the first photo is the next shipment of giraffes, awaiting processing and delivery to the hospital.

Listening, I believe, is the critical first step to sharing God’s love in Christ.  Listen, and the Holy Spirit will inspire.  Forty years of ministry have taught me that!  I pray that God will keep me listening and teaching others to do the same.  How about you?

Blessings and Peace,


Pastor, Cross Lanes United Methodist Church

Cross Lanes, West Virginia

Help save lives! For more information on my book, “A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression,” visit

My other book, “Wednesday Wonderings: Spiritual Journaling Through a Lens” is available at and

Check out my video, “Teens Surviving the Storm”

~ by revgenelson on May 17, 2017.

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