A couple of weeks ago, we taught at two conferences for pastors in Mindanao, a Muslim-dominated region of the Philippines. We were there to equip and encourage leaders in this very difficult area to stand strong under intense pressure.
Following one of the sessions, we chatted with one of the pastors and offered to share our teaching notes with him.
We said, “Sure, we can email you a copy.”
He replied with a nod that expressed he was both grateful for our offer, but had no idea what we were talking about.
“We can send all these notes to you on a computer. How many pastors do you think have internet and a computer?”
“I think not many,” he told us. He pulled out his cell phone (a minimal feature “dumb phone”).
“This is my only gadget!” the pastor proudly exclaimed. “Do you want to know how I got it?”
Of course we did.
“My sister owns a gas station. One day she had a customer who didn’t have the money to pay for his gas, so he offered his cellphone as payment. Then, my sister gave the cellphone to me!”
You could see the excitement in his face as he told us about his phone:
“I get to use it for my ministry! I can call other pastors with it, and they can call me. And I can call my church when I’m away from them like at this conference.”
Here are two ways that our faith is attacked:
1. Persecution. The Voice of the Martyrs team works tirelessly to stand with those who are experiencing this type of attack. Our staff has been “sprinting” recently to keep up with the pressing needs of our sisters and brothers in several hot-spots around the world. Please pray for wisdom and endurance for us. But there is another way we are threatened…
2. Preoccupation. This tactic is more subtle, but still extremely effective. When we heard our brother sharing about his sole “gadget,” we were reminded that our enemy has thousands of devices at his disposal to pull Americans away from our singular, essential focus.
What was most striking to us was not the clichéd reminder that other pastors do not have as much as we do, but the singular, utilitarian focus this pastor had with his “only gadget.” For him, it was truly a tool assisting him in his ministry to advance the Kingdom of God.
We thought about our iPads, smartphones, laptops, and VGA cables. We were using them for teaching, connecting with other pastors and field workers, showing PowerPoint presentations and persecution videos. But, we have also been sidetracked many times when they failed to work exactly how we want them to.
Our Filipino pastor friend was able to use his “only gadget” as a tool for ministry. Ironically, the tools we have to help our ministries can sometimes be used to hinder our ministry. Ephesians 6 reminds us that our enemy uses many “schemes” to attack, and distraction may be one of his favorite tactics.
YOUR TURN: What are some ways that you find yourself getting distracted from the calling God has for you? How have you seen “distractions” hinder ministry in your experience? Share your story in the comments to this post.
Anthony H. serves with VOM’s International Ministries department. He has ministered in 5 countries and was recently a guest speaker at two conferences for persecuted pastors serving on Mindanao Island in the Philippines.
Dr. Jason Peters oversees Global Partnerships and travels frequently to meet with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. He recently joined Anthony as part of the teaching team for the conferences in Mindanao.