The Nameless Evangelist

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Originally published August 15, 1993.

I just finished speaking at a great camp.  There are many reasons as to why it was a great camp and among them is that youths’ lives were effectively changed.

An odd thing happened at this camp though.  It was a rare occasion when I was introduced by my proper name.  I’m not talking about a mispronunciation of my last name.  That I am so used to after all these years with it–Seatbelt, Seinfeld, Seeflea.  I’ve heard them all many times.  I’m talking about my first name.  I was Barbara, Linda, Deborah and sometimes Brenda at this camp.  I was the featured speaker, the camp evangelist, the deliverer of God’s word to this camp and the leadership couldn’t get my first name right.

 There is something right about this.  I was the featured speaker, the camp evangelist, the deliverer of God’s word but I wasn’t Brenda Seefeldt, the star, the talent, the wise one.  I was a jar of clay “We are like jars of clay in which this treasure is stored,”  2 Corinthians 4:7a.  I was not a shiny gold chalice with a name but a jar of clay which God was able to do great things through.

Just a couple years ago this would have crushed me.  This was when my identity was that of a “golden child in youth ministry.”  My identity was wrapped up in the strokes I received from my peers and mentors in youth ministry.  Having a camp who sought and prayed and through that decided on me to be the camp speaker not know my name (weren’t they even praying for me by name?!!) would have crushed me.  But that was when the strokes I needed would have to come from my peers or my mentors.

It’s a good thing that this didn’t bother me.  I was able to practice what I preached in the morning staff devotions.  Once again I taught on the purpose of ministry is to make people feel bigger not smaller when they are with you.  Ministry has come to be in part that some great speaker comes in and imparts some great wisdom on the people and the people receive it like they are so blessed to be a part of this receiving.  Instead of getting the “Magical Ministry Tour,” people may walk away more impressed with their own uniqueness and their own possibilities when they are made to feel bigger.  That can happen when someone becomes a jar of clay to show the all-surpassing power of God to everyone.

That is just what happened at this camp.  With the weight of a personality or a name taken off of me, the expectations were also taken off of me.  “Barbara, Linda, Deborah or Brenda is here to give to us the Word of God tonight.  Let’s welcome her with loud applause.”  Unfazed but giggling I would then preach what God had given me.  Without having to live up to a name, I was then free to do what God had planned for me to do that evening.  And when God did show up like He did, Barbara, Linda, Deborah or Brenda did not get credit.

If I had reacted with any sort of reaction of showing hurt or paranoia or resentment at the continual misuse of my name (which became a camp joke among the youth), I would have been polishing a golden chalice that couldn’t have been used to show God’s all-surpassing power.  They would have had to look past the glare off of the shining I had done to see God.