Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Acts 9:17-19
Have you ever wondered why exactly Ananias was necessary to Paul’s conversion experience? Doesn’t it seem like a lot of extra (unnecessary) steps? God could have handled this entire conversion experience so much more efficiently by just handling it Himself. What is the point of blinding Paul until a fellow believer could come to him and play a part in helping Paul see again? Friends, I believe we, the church, must answer these questions if we are to understand God’s expectations of us.
I have built an entire ministry around the proposition that the church is not just one alternative plan to reach this broken world, but rather is God’s only plan. I believe this with all my heart. Christian Unity Ministries is not about finding alternative ways to reach the communities of the world…it is about bringing health and vitality to the only vehicle God has already ordained for that work: his church. And a big part of that work involves helping churches become the people God expects us to become in order to love well, whether the objects of that love are within the church or outside the church. If we are to be God’s vehicle for reaching a lost and broken world, we must learn to minister even to those in our culture with whom we strongly disagree or fear.
Can our sovereign God reach people without the church? Of course He can. And we do still hear stories from time to time about miraculous conversions in remote places of the world which take place completely separate and apart from “the church”. But, for reasons only He fully understands, God has chosen to work through His people, His church. You and I would not have done it that way, for sure. But He does. And I do not need to understand why He does. He just does.
So, for me, the highest calling I could have received is to help make His church healthy…to help keep it fit and ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice. To me, Ananias represents that readiness. Certainly he had a question or two (in the category of “Are You sure, Lord?”), concerning God’s assignment to go and minister to this notorious persecutor of Christ followers. But, irrespective of God’s response to those concerns, his answer was “Yes, Lord!” Think of the wisdom of God’s plan. Think about what it did for Paul to first hear a fellow Christ-follower call him “brother”. Think how it ministered to him to have that fellow Christ-follower administer a physical healing to him and restore his sight. Ask yourself if Paul’s undying devotion to the churches to whom he wrote, to the fellow believers whom he mentored might have been related in some ways to this “hands-on” ministry from Ananias.
It is such an amazingly profound plan…if God expects His people to grow and to be nurtured in community with other believers then doesn’t it just make sense that He will therefore use that same community of believers to reach those people in the first place? It is why the church exists…to be Ananias to a blind and broken world.
And so I am left pondering who these “difficult assignments” are for the church today. To whom is God calling us to minister in our present culture? Whose past decisions and behaviors have so frightened or even disgusted us, we now have little desire to be a part of their knowing and understanding Jesus? What does warmth and healing and nurturing and love look like for them? These seem like important questions for the church today.
© Blake Coffee