Griffin: Shed the Shell and Claim the Promised Land

Post a Comment » Written on January 31st, 2008     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

CHICAGO, IL (January 31, 2008) – On the first day of Darrell Griffin’s internship at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York, pastor Calvin Butts drove the Kenosha, Wisconsin, native around the community.

“What do you see?” the pastor asked. Abandoned buildings and difficult people was Griffin’s reply. Butts told him that his vision was too limited.

If Griffin was to minister to the people of the community, he would have to see the opportunity to reclaim lives and risk believing that God would empower the church for that work. The exchange was one that helped change Griffin’s life. He is now the pastor of Oakdale Covenant Church in Chicago, a congregation noted for its strong outreach to helping the poor in their community and reclaiming the lives of many.

GriffinThe ministries of the 2,000-member church include the Oakdale Christian Academy and Child Care Center, the Oakdale Community Development Corporation, and the Reconnecting Center, which connects Oakdale to the needs of people in Africa.

In his sermon before more than 1,000 pastors Wednesday night at the Evangelical Covenant Church’s Midwinter Pastors Conference, Griffin asked the gathering the same question his mentor once asked him – “What do you see?” And then he challenged them to risk seeing beyond the seemingly intractable problems they face.

Like the young intern, “Most of us only see the problems and not the opportunities,” Griffin said.

The preacher drew from Numbers 13:26-33, the story of the spies sent by Moses to check out the land that God had promised to them. When “the research committee” returned with their report, two of the spies – Caleb and Joshua – shared positive news, telling of milk and honey.

“I’m sure all of the people in the meeting said, ‘Amen and praise God,’ ” Griffin declared. Then came the report from the other members of the spy team, who acknowledged the milk and honey, followed by the word “but” as they proceeded to tell of the giants in the land who they described as too powerful to overcome.

“I’m telling you that no matter what meeting I’m in, no matter how happy I am, no matter how happy I am, there is that word ‘but,’” Griffin lamented. “There is that conjunction trying to mess up my function every time.”

Griffin warned, “I want you to know, beloved, this condition can kill our confidence, zap our creativity if we are not careful, and it can stop us from going into our Promised Land experience.” He added, “If God told you to do something, you have to go and do it despite the conjunction. You have to learn to function despite the conjunction.”

The Hebrew people lamented that they were better off remaining in Egypt, where life was predictable, although oppressive. “They were trapped in ‘the same.’ They had been in the wilderness so long that the wilderness was in them.”

That wilderness mentality is evident among pastors and churches as well, he continued. The audience laughed when Griffin joked that some people need to join the group ‘Same Anonymous’ – they need to go to a meeting and say, ‘Hello, I’m Bob and I’m a same-aholic.’ ”

Such people will never risk because they don’t trust the power of God, Griffin said. “Don’t minimize God!” he declared. “When we minimize God, we maximize our problems.” The audience, he added, should “notice that God is nowhere in the report of the research committee sent to Canaan.”

The Hebrew people had just been delivered out of slavery from the most powerful nation in the world and were being well fed each day, and yet refused to believe God’s promise that they would dwell in the land, Griffin said. “If they had just remembered God’s works, they could have avoided this mess. How soon we forget!”

Griffin also called on the people to not focus on the facts, but focus on the truth. “Facts are what you see, but truth is what God said,” he explained.

“We don’t walk by the facts, but we walk by the truth,” Griffin added. “We need to go to the facts and tell the facts all about our God.”

The only way people will experience the truth of God’s power is to follow him into situations where they would have to trust him, Griffin said. “There is no correspondence course for swimming. You just have to get in the water and get wet.”

Later in the evening, conversations around the hotel involved discussions of lobster because of Griffin’s final illustration. He told of going to a seafood restaurant and looking in an aquarium that included a lobster without its shell.

He thought, “We’re supposed to get fresh seafood and that thing looks sick. What’s going on here?” So he asked an employee about the seemingly sick crustacean.

The employee replied, “In order for the lobster to grow, it has to shed its shell. If it doesn’t shed its shell, its shell will become its tomb.”

Griffin joked that he knew a good sermon illustration when he heard one. “The lobster’s shell protects him from all the predators, but it has to risk his life in order to grow,” Griffin added.

“God is allowing you to see some things – it looks kind of distorted,” Griffin said, adding, “We need to risk our lives to make sure lost people are found and hurting people are healed. Yes, we might get eaten in the process, but if we don’t, our shell will become our tomb. So I pray, that as God has shown you, you will take the risk and possess the land.”

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