Friday, September 18, 2009

"Ninety Nine & a Half Won't Do"

I grew up in the home of parents who were born and raised in Eastern Kentucky. With southern roots, their personal tastes seem to always have that "mountain" flavor.

Their musical choice was the same. My dad really enjoys good bluegrass music. So, I grew up listening to groups like The Lewis Family, The Easter Brothers, Bill Monroe, Etc. That type of music seemed to resonate deep from within the soul of people whose life had been carved out of pain and hardship.

I remember a song in particular that talked about "all or nothing" (so to speak). "Ninety Nine & a Half Won't Do." As a child I really didn't understand the song, I just knew it had a catchy tune.

Today, I understand the meaning.

"It takes a hundred to go to Heaven,
just any kind of living won't do.
It takes a hundred to go to Heaven.
Ninety nine and a half won't do."

I liken that old song (and it's principle) to the life of my ministry today. I guess I would say, I feel like Elisha in a sense that I've burned up my plowshare and killed my oxen. In other words, I don't have a back up plan. If this "ministry" attempt doesn't work out - then I'm stuck. I have nothing to go back to.

Now, of course I could get a job somewhere and seek secular employment and do very well in a career of choice. But my heart is ministry. My call came very early in life and since the time of that call I've decided it's ALL or NOTHING.

What amazes me about some of the people I've led to the Lord here in Indianapolis - some of them have been what we would consider HARDCORE sinners. They gave 100% to drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, etc. Since their conversion, they are now 100% CHRISTIANS.

It's amazing.
  • You don't have to "plead" with them to be a soul winner.
  • You don't have to "market" the next meeting for them to decide whether or not they'll attend.
  • You don't have to "sugar coat" anything.
  • They are RAW - "give it to me plain preacher" people.
They show up, early I might add, for everything the church is doing. Their attitude is "is there anything else I can do?" NOT "Again? the church is asking me to do something else?"

How refreshing it is to see people with zeal and passion for the things of God.

I have to take inventory on my own life when I'm around them. Quite honestly, they challenge me to want to do more and not less.

I want to do more for Jesus. I'm not looking for loop holes. I'm not a minimalist when it comes to the work of the Lord. Nor was Jesus. He didn't give only 10% of Himself when He went to Calvary - He gave 100%.

Jesus didn't ask His disciples to give 10% of their lives. He said, "Come and follow me." Scripture declares that they did just that. They left their business interests, careers and homes to follow Him. Sounds like 100% to me.

There is a basketball player who played for the Chicago Bulls during the time of Michael Jordan's famed tenure. His name isn't highly recognized. He didn't play that much. Yet, he was on the team giving 100%. His name is Cliff Levingston.

Cliff suited up for each game not knowing whether or not he would be called upon to play. He knew what we all know...each person on the team is valuable...regardless of the amount of playing time they receive. Yet, Cliff did what we know to do, as ministers:
  • He attended all the practices.
  • He went to all the camps.
  • He suited up for every game.
  • He cheered the other teammates on.
  • He played when called upon.

Even though he is not as known as Michael Jordan - Cliff Levingston has two NBA championship rings. He didn't get all the playing time he would have liked but he did give 100% and as a result he is pictured with his team.

I do not know Cliff Levingston personally. I am not aware of all of his accomplishments or even his failures. However, he stands out to me as someone who gave everything to the cause he was playing for.

I want to lead with this same example. I realize that there are people depending on my influence, impartation and frankly my person hood. Although I cannot be everything people want me to be - I can be all He wants me to be by simply serving with 100% wherever I am.

At what level are you playing the game? Is it 100% or something else?

I can still hear that mandolin & banjo in the background as the music trails off ... "ninety nine and a half won't do...."


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  2. It's always interesting how self-proclaimed prophets love to get in the middle of every internet blog and hijack the flow.

    Anyway, Russell you hit this one out of the park. If the church would grab hold of this concept, we would see amazing things happen. We need more Cliff Levingstons who will give it all and be ready to step in when needed. Props to you for a great blog.

  3. Pastor Hylton,
    What a challenge, thank you for "telling it like it is" and not "telling it the way we want it" we need more people to be straight forward. I pray every pastor in PCG would read, and then apply this blog.