Doing Great Things For God With Limited Resources
Featuring Dennis Jernigan Posted on May 15, 2008
beginnings, for the Lord rejoices
to see the work begin...
Zechariah 4:10 NLB
You already know the story of how I came to be a worship leader on staff at a church (In the article Worship Leading Made Easy as published at www.praisecharts.com). I did not know how to lead people. I did not know how to organize a music ministry with real ministry at its heart. I wanted to avoid the very appearance of performance but still wanted to make a place for all the gifted people God was bringing our way. Many of the things I desired to do were simply impossible to do because we had no money. This was to be a very creative time in my life. Lack of money forces one to look at their hopes and dreams from brand new perspectives...and that is what I began to do. As I looked around at my life and the fact that I had been placed in an inner city church with great visions and dreams but very little in the way of resources, I realized that I was like the boy at the feet of Jesus who came bearing 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread hoping to feed thousands (Mark 6:38-52). What was I to do?
In my home, we had 2 toddlers (1987) but could not afford diapers, so we used cloth diapers. We did with what we had. We could not afford a dining room table so we used the S & H Green Stamps, my mom had collected, and redeemed them for a card table. We used what we had. We could not afford food so we ate a lot of popcorn and potatoes using the bulk of our finances to meet the needs of our babies. We used what we had. Our car died and we could not afford to buy another one so I rode a bike and we decided to sell our wedding rings (The Lord miraculously intervened at the last second…another story for another time). We did what we had to do and used the resources that were available. We lived in a small inner city house we rented and did not have a couch. But we did have a grand piano, I had inherited when I married Melinda (and, no, that is not the reason I married her!), but we did use our living room to minister to others as we asked them to kindly sit on the floor while I sang over them. We used what we had. We even came to the point where we were willing to sell the piano (the tool of ministry and anointing on my life) if that is what the Lord desired for us. This was the way we chose to live our lives and this way of thinking permeated every area of our lives…to place the little we had in the hands of the Lord and allow Him to make something beautiful from it.
When the Lord placed me so suddenly in the position of worship leader, I had no clue as to how to accomplish what I dreamed of. But I did know I served a big God and that He knew what He was doing when He placed me where I was with the resources at hand. I had seen the most beautiful banners declaring the names of God in other church sanctuaries, but when I priced the materials I found we were lacking. It was upon this news that my pastor’s mother told me about some butcher paper that was stored in the church basement. She asked me if I thought there was any way we could make our banners using this? I knew this was God’s best for us in this situation. I bought a couple of cans of metallic paint in gold and silver. I bought some cheap latticework slats and built 4’X8’ frames for a set of banners of 8 covenant names of God. I simply penned in calligraphy the name ‘Jehovah’ with the translation ‘I Am’ under each 4’X8’ banner. From these, we hung 14’ banners lengthwise. On these long banners were names like ‘Shammah’ with the translation ‘Present’ or ‘Shalom’ with the meaning ‘Peace’. In the shape of a ‘T’, these banners hung around our auditorium from the high ceilings. Bringing an air of majesty and reverence to the room, we soon had people calling and coming by to take pictures of our beautiful banners. Many were shocked to learn they were not made of velvet and gold and silver lame! We simply used the resources that were available and placed them in God’s hands.
As a worship leader for a church body, I felt it was my place to act as a shepherd for my sheep. If there was a need, I wanted to minister to it in a musical sense. If there was a spiritual direction God was taking our body, I wanted to be there with the music. God began to give music, but there was still no way to share that music except during regular worship services. I began to make ‘piano-top’ recordings with my cassette recorder. If someone was in the hospital and God gave a song, I was there with a tape. If I could not make a tape, I was there with my guitar. It soon became apparent that many desired recorded versions of the songs God was giving...but once again, I had no money! What to do?
By 1987, I had saved enough money to buy a Tascam 4 track cassette recorder! I believe it cost me around $400.00 - a lot of money for a man with several children and a miniscule budget to work with. Even though I had no clue as to what I was doing, I rigged a microphone to face the congregation and placed it near the piano. I then recorded a worship time and played a pitiful little drum line in, after the fact, on my remaining track. Voila! I had my first real worship recording. We affectionately called the recording ‘Dennis and the Crows’ because another worship leader had told me they liked the songs but the singers sounded like a bunch of crows! I didn’t care...and obviously people didn’t either. The first two years after we released that cassette we sold or gave away over 60,000 copies!
Out of necessity, my own publishing (self-publishing) company was born in 1988. After many days of agonizing over a name, my wife Melinda suggested we call it ‘Shepherd’s Heart Music’ because she felt this name best described my heart and vision...and I knew instantly she was right. All we had was a 1985 Mac SE on which I printed dot matrix versions of my songs and compiled them in book form. We used what we had and people seemed to want the ministry more than the cared about the lack of a polished look. As of this writing, that was 20 years ago. Now I get to minister with people like Dr. James Dobson and Beth Moore. I get to lead worship with men like Charlie Hall and Joel Engle and Chris Tomlin. I get to travel all over the country and tell my story of God’s redemption and watch people get set free. I get to hear my music sung in countless foreign tongues and hear reports from literally thousands each year all God is doing through the music and message. Who would have thought this could ever be possible for a guy from a small country town who grew up to drive a school bus - who struggled with homosexuality - who was told he had no potential to write music? Certainly not I. But isn’t that just like God? He takes the fish and bread of our lives and transforms these ‘small offerings’ into amazing things by virtue of His amazing love and grace. Our little becomes much in His mighty hands.
Did I ever feel like giving up? A lot. Did I ever get depressed? A lot. Did all my dreams come true? No. But what has happened is that I have learned to entrust God with the little (or much) I have been given. I have learned (and am still learning) to respond with His love and grace to the circumstances of my life. I simply take what I learn and then use that knowledge to more effectively minister to others around me...whether in my living room or in front of the masses.
I have tried to learn to meet the needs of people. In meeting needs, I am simply doing what Jesus did when He walked the earth. My main ministry is not a recording or a great worship event in which thousands attend. My main ministry is not on a church staff or in some book I write. My ministry is to whomever I happen to be with at any given moment. My ministry is in my living room with the couple whose marriage is falling apart. My ministry is in the hot tub with the minister who has been voted out of his church. My ministry is on horseback with a man who feels no joy or purpose in his life. My ministry is driving down the road with a friend who needs to be encouraged. My ministry is to my wife and to my children. My ministry is to my friends. Public ministry is simply icing on the cake for me...and that is the truth. You want to minister? Learn to meet the needs of people.
What do people need? Just look around you. Look at your own life. What do you need? What does your family or your friends need? People need good news. They need hope in the midst of affliction and grace for the fiery trials. They need comfort for broken hearts and they need their wounds bound up. People need freedom from bondage. They need to see beauty from the ashes of broken and burned out lives. People need someone to fill the voids of the heart. They need joy. They need cleansing from sin. You, as a worship leader...or more rightly...as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ can help meet those needs with the resources you have right now. Trust me. You will never know, though, if you always have some excuse for stepping out. Remember the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25:14-30. You have been given something to invest in God’s kingdom. Do something with it...now. Use it or lose it. It really is worth the cost.
trust must prove faithful.
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also
be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest
with very little will also be dishonest with much.
What do you need to minister the dreams and visions God has placed in your heart right where you are? Are you without a bass player? Have you considered praying one in? Have you considered using that keyboard player who has no place to play to play a bass line on that little keyboard no one is using? Creativity is simply seeing a problem from some other perspective…and I find that the Lord’s perspective is always so much better than mine! How does your need or problem or perceived lack look from God’s perspective? You might just find you have more resources at hand than your realized! So what would keep us from using what He has given us? Following are some roadblocks to creativity and using what you have.
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Humble yourselves before the Lord,
and he will lift you up.
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity,
but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a
slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit
of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you
and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in
heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Are you willing to pay the price? Then don’t despise small beginnings. Learn to take the resources God has placed in your heart and life and then get creative by learning to see from God’s perspective rather than your own. Right now – whether your ministry is small or large – offer your fish and loaves to the One who is able to multiply them far beyond your wildest dreams. See Him take your willing heart and available resources and feed literally thousands through the ministry of your life.
beginnings, for the Lord rejoices
to see the work begin...
Zechariah 4:10 NLB
This article was excerpted and adapted for PraiseCharts from the Dennis Jernigan book A Worshipper's Guide to Creativity, Song Writing, and Ministry which is available at www.dennisjernigan.com
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