Written by Michelle Lau
Servant’s Heart Community Church
“Tell it to your children and let your children tell it to their children, and their children tell it to their children.”
– Joel 1:3
Have you ever played a game of telephone with a group of kids? It’s interesting how the story changes by the time it gets to the end of the telephone “line”. I’ve sat in a circle with 20 elementary kids before and played this game and the distortion by the end is amazing. Sometimes kids don’t listen too well…for that matter sometimes, MANY times grownups don’t listen very well. So how do you TELL this thing that Joel’s talking about without it getting distorted and messed up? And what the heck is he talking about exactly? And where are you sitting in the telephone circle? These are all questions that popped in my head as I read the passage and tried to determine exactly what God wanted me to do with it. Here’s where I landed.
Interestingly enough, this isn’t the only time we hear this is it? I started doing some research to see how many times this message is given to us throughout scripture. I’m sure I didn’t find all of them, but here are some that stuck …
- Jeremiah 1:7 “But the Lord said to me do not say “I am only a child”. You must GO to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.” God’s saying GO TELL.
- Ezekiel brought the good news to God’s people explaining that if you are a righteous man yet do evil your evil will be remembered and you will die for it. And if the wicked man turns away from his sin and does what is just and right, he will surely live. At some point Ezekiel heard the call to GO and thus brought that good news of salvation… directly and to the point.
- In Malachi chapter 4 we read about how “those who revere God’s name will go out and leap like calves released from the stall and then trample down the wicked.” God takes the GO pretty seriously! But the calf visual causes me to think about some of the clumsy moments where I have “shared” my story and fallen on my face.
- Jesus in the book of Acts talks to his disciples and explains to them about how they will soon receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on them and they will be His witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. If “to the ends of the earth” doesn’t indicate a GO TELL … I’m not sure what does.
- 1 Timothy 4:12 “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but SET AN EXAMPLE for the believers in SPEECH, in LIFE, in LOVE, in FAITH and in PURITY. All of these actions can TELL someone about who Jesus is and cause them to want to know more. We teach this to children in SS but how often do we forget it ourselves?
- In my Adventure Bible for Kids there are sections throughout called Let’s Live it. In 2 Corinthians 3 it describes how we Christians can be a letter from Jesus by doing what is right, by loving others, and by TELLING others about Jesus. Then it asks WHAT KIND OF LETTER ARE YOU?
How are we telling our friends, our children … like it says in Joel 1:3?
I have a friend who was in prison for 21 years for dealing drugs. He met Jesus full on while he was inside about 8 years into his stay. These days he usually doesn’t speak without telling people how they need to turn to Jesus. Sometimes it feels like he’s warning them harshly, sometimes it feels like he’s almost threatening them. I listen to his urgency, and I listen to him witness and I think wow…he’s intense. Sometimes a bit too intense. I feel like his heart is so earnest in what he wants to accomplish, but maybe he should slow down, and not try to save everyone in the next five minutes! But then I think, “hey, he doesn’t want people to waste even another minute on the wrong side of the line. He knows where the line is, and he was dwelling on the wrong side for a long time. He wants as many people as possible to know his story so he can show by his repentance and turning toward Jesus what’s in store for them.” So that’s his way. His story. That’s not me … but that is totally him.
Mine’s a bit different. Mine’s a live it. I have found in my experiences that using my words to tell isn’t necessarily my best avenue. I can tend to get pretty intense myself pretty quickly, and most times I probably scare the pants off of the very person I’m trying to encourage toward Jesus. So I live it. I’m human. VERY HUMAN. I spend most of my time each day working with and in the midst of those who have been down on their luck, those who have made terrible life choices and resulted in incarceration or illness, and now they are trying to start over. Does that always include Jesus? Nope. Some are far away from God and don’t even see the glimmer of his existence in their future. Some knew him, lost trust in him and now are functioning on their own…which is why they have ended up where they are. Some have heard of this Jesus thing, and aren’t sure but willing to at least be curious. Some are devout in their faith because they know why they are still alive after the choices they have made. And I’m smack dab in the middle of it all…having conversations, showing grace, praying, creating partnerships in the community, connecting people to churches and church folks, and living it. Amongst those who most people would refer to as “the least of these”. Not me. I know what the bible says about “the least of these” and I agree. But you say “oh, you are the least of these” to someone who has no idea who Jesus is or feels that God has abandoned them, and instantly you create a barrier between you and them. You are NOT going to breach that wall with sympathy for the “least of these”. Jesus said what you do for the least of these you do for me. And I believe that with all my heart. I hear him say it in my head each time I reach out to provide grace, mercy and compassion to someone who’s swimming in the muck. But I never, ever treat them like they are less. To me, they are the next Jesus freak who might GO TELL about the great and wonderful love that awaits for those who chose to believe. All I have to do is love them with as big a love as I have for Jesus. I can do that.
God uses us to GO TELL the minute we open ourselves up to it. 20 years ago I opened myself up to ministry and jumped in like those calves released from the stalls! Clumsy and overly energetic, unable to contain myself. Through years of children’s ministry leadership, great pastors to pull me in a bit and mentor and counsel me into how to use the gifts I’ve been given and my own mom (that’s right, remember the Joel passage “go tell your children and your children’s children”?) I have tweaked my gifts and used them in a way that I hope is pleasing to God.
My mother demonstrated great faith to our family as we grew, and when I started having children she has demonstrated it throughout the 22 years I’ve been parenting my own children. I learned so much from watching my mom live out her devotion to her God and I’m quite certain that she is a heavy contributor to how I turned out as a Jesus follower. She didn’t GO TELL with words all the time. My mother is quiet, reserved, introverted and poised. She is a warrior in prayer and one of my favorite people in the world. In times when I was drifting, my mother is the one who not with words but with actions pulled me back in. She did things like offer to take my 5 year old daughter to bible study with her. At the time, the guilt of my mother teaching my daughter about Jesus better than me was too much to take, so I starting going to bible study myself and taking my daughter. That guilt quickly turned into gratitude. So many demonstrations over my 48 years there isn’t enough time to list them all. But I dare say I saw here TELL many times without ever speaking a word.
See, your tell doesn’t have to be like mine. It shouldn’t be, in fact. If we all tell it the same – using the same words we may miss someone who needs to hear it or see it differently. And God hasn’t created one person who doesn’t have the gift of TELLING in some way shape or form. There’s just many of us who have not yet realized it’s in there. So when you share the gospel, when you share a piece of God’s Word, when you express love for another child of God through caring and compassion, just remember one thing … delivery is everything. Your tell doesn’t have to be like mine and it doesn’t have to be perfect, but God’s message to us about it is clear. GO TELL.