Hands Held High
By David Crowe
The 2016 theme for North American Ministries was “Hands Held High: A Ministry of Encouragement.” Everything we did last year revolved around that theme—the exhibit at the national convention; our directories and other literature; the Power Conference in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee; and the November offering. My staff and I promoted and preached on this theme in over 200 different churches across North America last year. And, at the Power Conference in May, we kicked off a new ministry.
For years I have seen the need for ministries to encourage Christian workers as they face attack by Satan and his systems of the world. The church and all Christians are under attack on a daily basis, and this isn’t going to improve. I’ve met more discouraged pastors, evangelists, church planters, and missionaries in the last ten years of my ministry than in the previous 30 years combined.
I began to see this need when I was a pastor in Cookeville, Tennessee. I experienced it personally as I was discouraged from time to time as a pastor, but God always put an encourager in my path and in my life to help hold up my weary hands. I had always seen the need for more encouragers, but God has a way of driving home His truth in our hearts in a way that we never forget or get over.
While pastoring in Cookeville, I preached a revival for a young pastor in another city. It quickly became obvious that he and his wife were discouraged and about to leave the church and ministry altogether. Some of their church people had disagreed with him on an issue, and as a result, were trying to run the pastor and his family away from the church. They tried to starve them out and treated them in ways that were unkind and unchristian. I wish I could tell you revival broke out that week, and everything got better. But, by the end of the revival meeting, things had actually gotten worse. As I stood in their driveway preparing to get into my car and return to a church and congregation that loved me and my family—people who were unusually gracious, generous, loving, and kind—I watched the tears run down their faces. I prayed with them and tried to encourage them.
When I got home to Cookeville, God began working on my heart about how we could help and encourage that young family. I thought about the story in Exodus 18, when Moses stood on the mountain overlooking the valley of Rephidim as the Israelites were battling the Amalekites. As long as Moses held up his hands in surrender and worship to God, the Israelites continued winning, but when his hands began to lower, the Amalekites began winning the battle. The thing that saved Israel that day was that Moses had taken Aaron and Hur with him to the mountaintop.
When they realized the battle would be lost if they didn’t help Moses, they grasped Moses’ arms and helped him raise them so the battle could be won that day.
After considering this story, I presented a plan to our church that I felt God would use to bless that young pastor and his family. I could not have imagined what God was going to do for me, for our church, and for our people as a result. God used us to bring that family to Cookeville, and for two weeks He let us love them, encourage them, help them, strengthen them, and hold up their weary hands. That was just the beginning. Over time, God allowed us to bring other discouraged pastors, evangelists, church planters, and international missionaries and their families to spend a few days with us, or even a few weeks, allowing us the wonderful opportunity to love and encourage them. We became Aaron and Hur to them as we helped lift their weary hands up before God. We simply called this program, “Hands Held High: A Ministry of Encouragement”.
I have been working for North American Ministries (Home Missions for all you old school people like me) for 21 years, and I have seen and met many discouraged Christian workers across our denomination. I have done what I could on a personal level to encourage them. When I became director of the department three years ago, I hired men for my staff that I knew had hearts for encouragement. Over the last three years, everyone in our office has been working hard to be available to churches and pastors and to provide resources and training in the areas of church planting, revival, church growth, and church revitalization. At the Power Conference in Pigeon Forge in May, we officially kicked off this new ministry for the department.
We have asked 75 churches to partner with us in two areas of support: 1) support the program financially by providing $1,000 each year that will go into a special account used only for this ministry; and 2) support the program personally by hosting a discouraged couple or family for a few days or weeks so that they can love them, encourage them, and help lift their weary hands so they can be recharged and revitalized for ministry. When we hear of discouraged Christian workers, we will contact them and connect them with one of our partner churches that can meet their needs of encouragement. Funds for travel and accommodations will be paid either by the host church or the Hands Held High account. We hope to form a nationwide network of Christian counselors upon whom we can call to help with needs that require professional counseling. Counseling expenses will also be paid by the fund.
I believe God has given us a window of opportunity to encourage these discouraged servants of God, and I want to do all I can to take advantage of this opportunity. I’ve seen what this can accomplish on a local church level, and I’m excited about what God can and will do with this ministry on a national level.
If you would like to support the ministry of Hands Held High, please call or contact our office. If you know a couple or a family that needs help and encouragement, contact the North American Ministries office: PO Box 5002, Antioch, TN 37011. Our toll free number is 877-767-7674.
About the Writer: Dr. H. David Crowe is the Executive Director for Free Will Baptist North American Ministries: www.FWBNAM.com.