Jerry Iamurri's blog

Effective Ministry

“In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war…” begins the tragic narrative of King David’s fall in 2 Samuel 11. Last week, Field Director Keith Stringfellow and I went to the area fellowship meeting that took place in northern California. When it was time to discuss the topic of Ministry Effectiveness, one of the passages that Keith and I discussed was 2 Samuel 11. Here is the context of our talk: InFaith missionaries want to be effective in the ministry to which God has called them. We have many Biblical examples of effective ministry. Many of these examples differ in the means by which God brought forth fruitfulness. Some progress in a linear fashion. When Peter preached, thousands were saved. Others follow a more circuitous route toward fruitfulness. When Stephen preached, he was martyred, and a great persecution broke out against the church and the disciples were scattered to exactly where Jesus had previously told them to go. When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he simply declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John’s disciples began to follow Jesus and Jesus said that “among those born of women not one has risen greater than John the Baptist.” With all the different Biblical narratives that exemplify effective ministry, it’s natural to consider which of them apply to one’s own ministry context. Unfortunately, only time reveals ultimate effectiveness. John and Stephen never fully realized their effectiveness until it was revealed to them by Jesus face to face and Peter didn’t know for sure the impact he had on the crowds until he met them in eternity. There is one test, however, that we can all apply to our ministry: “Are we going to where the Lord sent us and are we...

God’s Plan for Your Life

It is true for missionaries and all the people we serve: “God has a plan for your new life in Christ.” That’s an idea that we’re all familiar with. A second, more advanced, idea is this: Our identity comes from God, not from the details of God’s plan. We need to make sure we understand the difference between getting our identity from our relationship with God and getting our identity from the job God gives us. Look at God’s plan for our lives: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10). You may remember that the word translated “workmanship” is the Greek work poiema , where we get the English word “poem.” That means you are not a random accident but an object of God’s love who exists because of God’s creative genius. Talking to God in Psalm 139:13-14, the psalmist teaches us something of profound importance, “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” All God’s works are magnificent. No matter what you think of yourself and no matter what anyone else thinks of you, God says, “You are my masterpiece.” You are in a relationship with the sovereign God of creation, the universe and everyone and everything in it. Your ministry is unique to you. Your local is unique to you. No one else can be you and do what you’re doing at this time and in your special corner of the world. Rest in your relationship with God rather than the work that He has called you to.

Our Identity in Christ

One of my favorite books of the Bible is Ephesians. Ephesians is about understanding who we are and to whom we belong. As a Christian, you are a child of God, and you belong to your heavenly Father. God decided on that identity for you before you were even born. Most people who are not yet Christians see things differently. They might say, “I am what I do . . . or I am what other people say I am . . . or I am what I have .” Ephesians 2 contradicts all that and says that the reference point of every person’s identity is Jesus Christ alone. We are dead without Christ: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Eph 2:1). We have salvation through Christ: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Eph 2:4-5). We have new life in Christ: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10). We’re not saved by a good life, but we are saved for a good life that will glorify God. Communicating this message is what we do. Apart from the gospel, people are lost. InFaith missionaries are called to reach local and share the good news of Jesus Christ and the new life available to everyone who believes.

Mission Critical Obedience

Peter and Stephen were two men blessed by God and called to proclaim the truth about Jesus Christ. Both were faithful and fearless in the face of intense persecution. The main difference between their ministries is that when Peter preached, thousands accepted Christ; and when Stephen preached, he was martyred. By worldly standards of success, Peter would be adjudged far more “successful” than Stephen. But Christ’s treatment of Stephen is instructive. In Acts 7 we read that Stephen, “full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” Why was Jesus standing? In Hebrews 10:12 we read that “when this priest [Christ] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” Jesus stood up as if to welcome the first martyr in recorded history. It was a sign of acknowledgment and highest honor. Jesus promised, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.” Stephen confessed Christ before men, and then he saw Christ acknowledging him before the Father in heaven. There is no greater honor than the King of the universe standing up to welcome a faithful servant into his presence. A careful examination of their ministries shows that both Peter and Stephen made transformational contributions to the spread of the gospel. Peter’s preaching converted many thousands, and Stephen’s martyrdom paved the way for a great expansion of the Jerusalem church: “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” The word “scattered” is used again a few verses later: “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” The word “scattered” (Greek:...

My Grandfather

My grandfather was an Italian immigrant who came to Philadelphia at the turn of the 20th century. He worked in a slaughterhouse and later at a refinery. He loved chin-ups and bowling and could fix anything. On a wall in the workshop basement of his small South Philadelphia row home was a collection of the hard hats he would wear to the refinery each day. When he retired, he gave me a hard hat and wrote my name on the front. I was about eight years old, and his number one priority in retirement was to teach me everything he thought I should know in life. He taught me how to catch a bus into Center City and navigate the subway system; he taught me how to polish my shoes and how to fix things around the house. He wanted me to be like him, and I wanted to be like him. Without ever knowing it he also taught me an important lesson about ministry. One morning he decided to paint a wall in the basement. He handed me a paint brush, dipped it in the open can, and told me to paint as much as I could as carefully as I could. He said, “Don’t worry about what you miss; I’ll take care of it.” I took the brush and carefully applied the paint in broad strokes as far as I my reach allowed. I started on my knees and then stood up on my feet and then rose to my tiptoes to make sure I covered as much area as possible. Despite my best efforts, the section still looked like it was painted by an eight-year-old boy. My grandfather then painted what I couldn’t reach, filled in the areas I missed, and smoothed over some of the spots...

A New Chapter

For over 200 years, InFaith has brought the gospel to the overlooked and underserved in America. For the last 14 years, Ridge Burns has faithfully and fearlessly led this mission from strength to strength, navigating the swirling waters of increasing secularism, a pandemic, and a great recession. Ridge, along with his faithful team, have served the Lord with energy, enthusiasm, initiative, and integrity. Earlier this week, Ridge wrote me a pastoral letter, prayed over me, and passed the baton. Now I begin the task of serving the missionaries, donors, and friends of this important work of the Lord. Ephesians 2 reminds me (and, indeed, all of us) how we could ever presume to serve the Lord. Despite being spiritually dead, God in His rich mercy made us alive in Christ, seated us with Christ, and created us in Christ for good works which He prepared in advance for us to do. What an encouragement! So often in life we think about whether we are in the “right work.” The Bible tells us that there is a right work and the God who calls us, equips us, and places us exactly where He wants us to be in order to fulfill His specific purposes. As we begin this new chapter together, we know that not one of us is here by mistake. God has put us here, together, at this time for His divine purpose. I am so excited to discover what God will be doing in us and through (and, occasionally, around us) in this exciting new chapter in the ministry of InFaith.
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