A church’s Sunday morning coffee hour, or half-hour, or even 15 minutes of that hour – can be a wonderful thing.
And I’m not just talking about passing the “window of opportunity”—what I call the kitchen window—because, after all, there’s usually a favorable juncture of butter and chocolate waiting for me there! I say this because I want to remind you that we never know how the Lord will use a coffee hour.
Sometimes, it would be more comfortable for me to stay in a familiar circle of family or friends, or to find a small task to do instead of fellowshipping with others, but on a recent Sunday I was reminded of the blessing that can be found in being open to even 15 minutes of interaction during coffee hour.
I sat down by my husband and was quickly invited into conversation with a visitor, Faith Nelson. I had no idea who I was talking to, but between bites of an oatmeal fudge bar and sips of coffee, I did realize that this visitor was firing some very direct and thought-requiring questions my way. Only later did I learn that Faith is the wife of Pastor Elden Nelson, president of our Association of Free Lutheran Congregations.
As she asked how I was involved in Living Word, our conversation led naturally to Equipping Ministry. I described our church’s philosophy of making ministry possible, joyful and profitable for unpaid servants, and Faith’s closing remarks were, “the Word says we must have a vision, and it sounds like you do.”
Her words confirmed my role at Living Word, but more importantly, they confirmed OUR way of working at Living Word. The unexpected conversation that morning was not only a blessing to me, but it led me to reflect repeatedly the story of 1 Samuel 3:1-10 (ESV).
3 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision…4 Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!”5 and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down.
As I began to read this passage, one phrase, “And the word of the Lordwas rare in those days; there was no frequent vision,” stood out to me. This could be written about today! I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have days when I look around and think, ‘the word of the Lord IS rare these days…’ When I see people floundering to find peace or purpose in their lives, I’m tempted to wonder, ‘is there no vision?’
I understand that in the book of Samuel, the word vision was referring to a supernatural appearance that conveyed a revelation, yet even there I see a parallel to today. Samuel’s use of vision provided unusual discernment or foresight: It was an element of guidance. And that is how I would define the “vision” Faith and I discussed at coffee hour. All I needed to do was look at our congregation’s official Vision Statement, and I was immediately reminded that it is an important element of guidance for us.“In obedience to God’s Word and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are dedicated to: equipping people to grow in Christ…”
6 And the Lord called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.”7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
Unlike Samuel, we don’t need a supernatural revelation; we already have the Word of the Lord revealed to us! Our focus on the Biblical principles of Ephesians 4:11-16 exemplify this.
8 And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy.9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
Like Samuel, sometimes we need to hear things more than once to really grasp what they mean. But when we are in obedience to God, we can see--or envision--how to equip people to grow in Christ. Yes, like Eli, when we are perceptive to the working power of the Holy Spirit, we can equip people to grow in Christ.
10 And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”
I am so thankful that my servant ears were open during coffee hour, so I could hear Faith’s comments. Yes, I know that equipping ministry is part of my calling, but I also know that it is what we are ALL called toward as believers in Jesus Christ. What a wonderful place to be…in a congregation that understands this…in a church with time set-aside on Sunday mornings for coffee hour.