17th May 2020
Little Richard (Penniman) died this week at 87. He was considered to be the father of ‘rock and roll’ and an inspiration to Elvis, Rolling Stones, and the Beatles. The lingering sense I have of Little Richard from the obituaries this week of his death and from reading his autobiography many years ago, is the question, what was his real calling? Rock and roll brought the jungle to suburbia and the beat got you, but his lyrics were gibberish. So, I sat down and watched some of the hits from my teenage years, his originals plus remakes like ‘Baby Face’. But of more interest than his songs is his ‘in and out’ ministry of preaching and evangelism. I wondered what his real calling was, as he seemed to love to preach the Gospel, and to be known as a preacher. The most recent YouTube videos show an old man preaching ramblingly to a congregation of senior contemporaries.
So, what is going on here? The power and priority of the ministry gifts, including the ‘evangelist’ recorded in Ephesians is how Christ will impact and fill the whole universe. And these gifts are not flighty and once given are scarcely withdrawn. In other words, they are strongly given and to be seriously exercised.
Today the world hijacks the best gifts that God gives and applies them to worldly energies. It has produced nothing better - seeking more cannot go past the Bible and what it gives. Bob Hawke the agnostic had to have the Hallelujah chorus at his funeral. ‘Evangelical’ has become a sociological term.
The evangelist, whatever the measure of the gift and its result whether small or large, is the number one necessity for the formation of good societies as well as recruiting for the Kingdom and preparation for eternity. Small towns and regional centres across Australia need the gift of evangelist/pastor ahead of all other professions. That is the primary instrument for creating rich and flourishing society.
The gifts of pastor, evangelist, teacher, prophet and apostle of the Word are the most needed, the brightest and best for nation building and social goodness. They are not to be locked away into a religious enclave. And with them are the variety of gifts and callings for all kingdom members and Christ’s church.
Wesley kept teaching the millions who became Methodists to be serious about their calling and they radicalised communities with holy love and transformed nations. There is nothing more important for the exercise of social health, the nourishment of democratic societies and saving souls.
All work, whether a rock star or rabbit-trapper can be avenues of Christian stewardship and even daily worship. Take seriously and pursue energetically your personal God endowed inclination, gift-fitting and calling to testify and honour his Name.
Rev. Ian Clarkson has a special ministry focus on supporting and encouraging ministers and congregations in South Australia with HopeNet SA.
Published on 17 May 2020 (Column for the March-June 2020 ACC magazine)