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Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone

Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone

Posted: Thursday, June 10, 2010 8:57 pm

Ministry & Missions: The Life
of John L. Girardeau, Part 1
Short-term missions.  Summer missions. Youth mission trips.  A group of locals stock up on their favorite snacks and bottled water, grab their I-pods, pack the van or airplane and head out to rub elbows with the natives for a week or two. After a short stint of blessing the underprivileged and sprinkling the name of Jesus around like fairy dust, the group returns home with heart-touching stories, an awesome power-point presentation and lives rededicated to Christ.
Perhaps one of the “missionaries” on that trip will be so affected by the experience that he eventually accepts a call to full-time mission work. Most, however, just settle back into the comfort of hot showers and Facebook, thankful they have so much more than those people and happy to be able to check “evangelism” off on their spiritual scorecards.
It’s much easier to talk about Jesus and to live the Christian life in short, emotionally-charged bursts, somewhere far from home … so much easier than following Christ every single day, in front of friends at school or among our buddies at work. Short-term missions — perhaps, in many cases, we could more accurately call this middle-class American phenomenon “Evango-tourism.” It’s like an inoculation against Christ’s call to die daily to ourselves (Luke 9:23) — we settle instead for two weeks in July, somewhere “out there.”
While many Christians truly are called to serve in faraway places, it is certain that ALL Christians are called to serve somewhere, if only in their own backyards. Short-term missions, summer missions, youth mission trips — these should be the beginning of a life of service, not the end. The challenge for most of us is: How do we bring the work home?
Born in 1825 on a cotton plantation near Charleston, S.C., John Lafayette Girardeau understood that ministry was a way of life, the daily outworking of one’s personal faith. It was not something conveniently scheduled for one month out of the year, performed in some exotic location. Girardeau loved South Carolina and devoted himself to serving the people of his homeland.
As a very young student at the College of Charleston, Girardeau fell under strong conviction of sin. He realized his own inability to do anything to save himself from the righteous wrath of a holy God, and so flung himself on the mercy of Christ. Assured by the Holy Spirit that his sins were forgiven and that God loved him with an everlasting love, John joyfully professed faith in Christ at the age of 15.
John then attended Columbia Theological Seminary, where he eagerly engaged in both academic life and ministry. He began holding meetings in an abandoned building located in a destitute section of Columbia, where he proclaimed the Gospel of Christ to society’s basest outcasts. He graduated from seminary and was licensed to preach in October 1848. Soon thereafter, he married his childhood sweetheart, Penelope Sarah Hamlin, with whom he eventually fathered 10 children.
Initially serving as stated supply for various small country churches, John was finally installed and ordained as pastor of Wilton Church at Adam’s Run, S.C. It was here that he discovered a heart for ministering to South Carolina’s black community. Unlike some of his white peers, Girardeau believed that black slaves had both souls that needed the Gospel and keen minds capable of understanding and accomplishing great things with the truths of Scripture. His experiences at Wilton Church would set the course for much of the rest of his life.
In 1855, John Girardeau accepted a call to take charge of the black Anson Street congregation affiliated with Charleston’s Second Presbyterian Church. Girardeau’s remarkable work at the Anson Street Mission — eventually called Zion Church — will be the focus of next week’s article.    
Editor’s note: Camille Kendall attends Grace Community Church (, where she is learning the implications of God’s sovereign grace in her life.

Published in The Messenger 6.10.10

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