Lessons from a Christian helpline
New Kapporet launched midway through 2020. Its director Tim Harding shares some of the key lessons the Lord has taught
In April 2020, The Baptist Times generously published an article in which I described the plans of a small, multi-denominational group of Christians to launch a new, freephone Christian helpline. The concept was modelled on Samaritans, but with an openly Christian foundation and ethos. We planned to develop a ministry founded on the twin pillars of listening and prayer, where we wouldn’t judge, advise or seek to evangelise, but where we would try to represent to each caller the love and compassion of Jesus Christ.
Since its launch, the Lord has greatly blessed this fledgling ministry, but here I don’t want to spotlight our successes or failures. Rather, and far more important, I want to share with you some of the key lessons that the Lord has taught us, as we brought our tentative plans to fruition.
First, we have always understood that the notion of a new Christian Helpline came directly from God, and through no great wisdom or insight of ours, and we witness the Lord’s direction and involvement every day. However, to aid our understanding of the nature of His commission, He early gave our embryonic organisation its name, ‘New Kapporet’.
In the Old Testament, Kapporet was the name given to the cover of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was located in the Holy of Holies, the innermost and most sacred room in the temple of Jerusalem. The cover was made of pure gold, with two Cherubim made from hammered gold, located one at each end. Between the two cherubim was the ‘Seat of Mercy’. This was the place where God would listen to His people.
We soon began to see that our ministry hadn’t been initiated so that we could minister to the callers ourselves. We are only gatekeepers (John 10: 3). By offering our helpline, we simply open the gate, so that the Lord may summon each caller by name into His presence. When a caller calls the helpline, it isn’t our listening that is important, but the caller’s interaction with God. Our role is simply to encourage them into His presence, so that they might converse with Him in prayer.
Following on from this realisation, our second major lesson concerned the role of our own prayers in the ministry. Initially, we believed that our prayers were important during a call, but the Lord has gradually taught us otherwise. Those callers, whom the Lord has summoned into His presence, need no mediator to offer prayers on their behalf.
God wants them to tell Him directly about their struggles and sufferings. We have learned that the greatest comfort for a caller will come from encouraging them to pray. Many callers find this difficult. They often don’t have the words or the confidence to speak to God directly. But, with some virtual handholding, they sometimes begin and, having started, they then pour out their hearts to the Lord. This is the greatest reward that we receive from our involvement in the ministry; when we listen to a caller find the courage to speak to God directly and when, in consequence, they experience His compassion and love for them – not as they wish to be, but as they are.
The third key lesson concerns the qualities required to do the small task assigned to us. I will not pretend that the last eighteen months have been without challenge. One might imagine that just listening to a caller, without judgement, advice or evangelisation, and then encouraging them to pray would be easy. In reality, it is anything but. Some of our volunteers find listening to the suffering of others almost unbearable; some want to solve the caller’s problems themselves, not realising that this is the Lord’s undertaking, not ours; and some, as in the parable of the soils (Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23), join the ministry with a rush of enthusiasm, but are quickly distracted by other concerns or priorities. It has, therefore, proved challenging to recruit, train and retain the listening volunteers we need. However, we are increasingly blessed with a group of committed Christians from all denominations, who have grasped the simplicity and privilege of the work we are commissioned to do. They persevere and, in consequence, are themselves richly blessed.
You may now understand why there is little cause to boast about our achievements. This is the Lord’s ministry. He has given us a clear but limited commission. He summons each caller by name, and we gently encourage her or him into His presence. Then we witness how He embraces them and blesses them with His mercy and grace. The ministry is growing fast, both in listeners and callers, but none of this is our doing. We know that we will continue to prosper only so long as we keep our eyes fixed on the Lord and recognise that this is all His doing. If we are serving His purpose in this small way, then that is enough.
Tim Harding is the director of New Kapporet. Tim has been invited to share more of New Kapporet's story at the 2022 Fresh Streams conference.
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