The last couple of weeks have been a little crazy around the office at Second Baptist Church. On top of the normal demands, we have been inundated with phones calls, emails and social media requests from hundreds of people in over 30 states, and numerous countries. The “Bag Ladies” of Second Baptist Church have become a viral sensation. As of this writing, our news story with WPSD in Paducah (Click Here to View) has been viewed over 11 Million times on Facebook alone. ABC News, CBS News, Good Morning America, WGN Chicago, Las Vegas, New York, the Huffington Post and many more media outlets have picked up the story and pushed their own take on it. How in the world does that happen? I rejoice for our ladies and the recognition they are receiving for their service to Jesus but I also rejoice at the lessons I am learning from this.
In a world of instant gratification and pursuit of fame, our fallen nature is wired to pursue success at all cost. Let me caution you as Christian from such pursuits. When our “Bag Ladies” started to meet nearly two years ago they had a singular focus. How can we share the love of Christ with the marginalized? The answer to that question was recycling grocery sacks and turning them into mats for the homeless of the Mississippi River region. Long before the news showed up, the emails accumulated and the interest peaked, these women faithfully labored week in and week out for an audience of one. Friend, the vast majority of us will never be interviewed for how we serve Jesus, but my question is “Are we still serving Jesus faithfully?” You see, if your entrance into ministry is with some hope of becoming a mega church pastor, or if your commitment to serve is contingent upon being praised by mankind then you are not serving Jesus, you are serving yourself. When the viral spread of this work ceases, and the “bag ladies” become yesterday’s news, they will still be gathering, crocheting and ministering to the least of these. What about you? If no one ever takes notice, or no praise is ever offered in this life, will you be found faithful with the talents you have? When the master returns and settles accounts what investment will we present to Him?
“Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. “The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”Matthew 25: 19-21
If you are honest, we are consumed with being praised and acknowledged. We post pictures and status updates across social media platforms not for a historical record but rather for recognition. The more clicks, the more shares we experience the more validated we feel. I can relate to the joy these ladies have experienced from this recognition because I am a words of affirmation person myself. Words and praise motivate me. There is nothing wrong with being encouraged, we all need it. Yet, do we live for the praise of men more than we live for the praise of the Father? In Matthew 7, Jesus said, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.” Why we do what we do matters far more than what we do. May we never lose sight of the one to whom we will give an account.
Finally, I am again reminded that if we will simply become a vessel of availability, then God will do the rest. Maybe your don’t know how to crochet but find yourself wanting to serve. Friends, if you will surrender what gifts you have to the Lord, then he will develop and use them for His good name. Age is not qualifier of service. Whether it is crocheting bags or traveling to Africa to sew patches on the worn clothes of orphans, God can use you. . . if you are willing to be.
I rejoice in the faithful service of the women in our church and their commitment to the Gospel. I celebrate their work and the praise it has brought our Great God. I am overwhelmed that people around the world are now organizing bag lady groups in their communities. Above all I give thanks that in the months to come they will continue to bring the Father praise one mat and one life at a time. May we all follow that faithful example.