Tripping Over Ministry

David Burchett

Several years ago I got serious about this whole following Jesus thing. And I began to ask the Lord for a ministry. I beseeched Him for something that would make a difference for eternity. I bemoaned my job in sports television as being “insignificant”. Finally the obvious hit me right between my stubborn eyes. My ministry was all around me. People I had built relationships with over the past twenty years had real needs and big questions. When I simply asked God to use me my prayer for ministry was answered virtually overnight. Right where I was. I didn’t get called to the mission field. My books didn’t become best-sellers so I could go on a powerhouse speaking tour. God called me to be faithful to the ones He had placed in my life. That pesky "be faithful with the little things" scripture came to mind.

I guess my spiritual dimness is the reason an article in the Dallas Morning News resonated deeply with me this weekend. One of the many excellent barbecue restaurants in Dallas has an interesting sideline activity. Every Tuesday Smoky John’s Barbecue has what the Dallas Morning News dubs a “beefed-up Bible study.” It is known as “Smoky John’s Fellowship.” How cool is that? Every week anywhere from thirty to double that number crowd into a small room to talk about life, about God and how those two intersect. It is a haven for both the believer and the broken, for people living on the street and those with upscale addresses in Preston Hollow and the Park Cities.

Smoky John Reaves is the man who found a ministry all around him. "Rich folks, poor folks, black, white, brown, Asian – they all come to this meeting," Smokey said. "This is what heaven looks like. And I want to get a glimpse of heaven here on earth so when I get there I don't have culture shock."

Amen! And to quote Larry the Cable Guy: “That’s just funny, I don’t care who you are.”

Smoky John hit squarely on a pet peeve of mine. Studying God’s Word without seeking application. Every Bible should have a shampoo-like label attached.


Reaves had grown frustrated with the sterile approach to Bible study as well. The story in The Dallas Morning News continues:

"That's the thing that got me about all the other Bible studies I attended. Everyone was so involved in the questions that were being discussed, they weren't concerned about relationships with the people around them. I was sitting in a Bible study once, and I turned to the guy next to me and I said, 'Man, what's going on in your life?' "And he said, 'My wife has filed for divorce and I'm contemplating committing suicide.' And no one knew."

Smoky John set out to create a Bible study where that wouldn’t happen.

"I was going to every Bible study I could find," he said, "and I left each one thinking that I was the only messed-up guy in the city of Dallas. Everyone else seemed so together, so polished. But then I realized everyone else was as messed up as I was.”

Probably more. But isn’t that a key step to really growing in Christ? Realizing that you cannot do this on your own. That our righteousness apart from Christ is like filthy rags in God’s sight. Smoky John Reaves continues to see ministry all around him. The Morning News picks up the story:

Smokey's life is all about ministry today. Along with his lunchtime Bible study on Tuesdays, he holds another at a Dallas home on Wednesdays. And on Thursdays, as many as 100 recent parolees come to Smokey John's for a free meal and help getting their lives together.

Is that not awesome? I’m pretty sure that would be on the list of what Jesus would do.

He and some core members of the fellowship are working now to take over an abandoned strip club next to Smokey John's. The extra room could be used for all sorts of ministries and community outreach, and it would make Tuesdays a lot more comfortable. Whether it succeeds or not, Smokey said, is up to God.

"I won't lose a night's sleep worrying about what to do here," he said. "Jesus didn't call us to do something. He calls us to be available to do his will. I just get up every morning and say, 'Lord, what do you want me to do today? I'm reporting for duty.' "

God has enough soldiers to make a difference in this culture. Instead of fighting the media, whining about “persecution” from foes of faith, and griping about our culture perhaps we should simply report for duty. See what God can do with people who are looking for whatever ministry is right at our feet. It is worth noting that the “big, bad media” reported this story and without pulling any punches. Maybe not all of the media is out to get Christians. Maybe we just need to be Christian and see what happens.

Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through