Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Many can relate to the life story of Bert Elliot, much more so than that of Jim Elliot, and are encouraged. The reason for this is that there are many more faithful stars than there are streaking meteors.
Notice, however, that in the subject of this post how I referred to these two men: Jim or Bert. Stated this way makes them alternative, a bi-furcation, an antithesis. But is this accurate? Is it right to make this an either Jim or Bert approach? Certainly not!
Whatever state God calls us to be, we are to pursue him and the ministry he has given to us with all of our being. And yet, it is tempting to make that state the normal and expected state of all. So our temptation is to make these two life-callings, with other variations between these two, alternatives rather than both/and (not often the same person, though over time that could happen).
In our day, with the attraction (temptation) of the celebrity pastor among Evangelicals, there is a strong emphasis placed on the Jim Elliot's and it is often done at the expense of the Bert Elliot's who are overlooked, ignored, forgotten or never known. In this case, Bert was unknown.
There are many who serve faithfully, who God knows, who those with whom and to whom they serve know, but because their faithful ministry is not in more of a public setting, they serve faithfully though obscurely. But the primary place of ministry and size of ministry and the known-ness of ministry does not make it better or worse. It is faithfulness to God's call in a person's life that matters. So whether God calls one to be a streaking meteor or a faithful star, be faithful – day in and day out until the end.
To whatever ministry God calls and equips us, and wherever that ministry takes place, it is important to remember three practical and pastoral applications: (1) we must not be envious of the one in the other ministry; (2) we must not universalize for all the ministry to which God has called one; and (3) we must be faithful to the ministry to which God has called us, and we must rejoice with those who rejoice regardless of the ministry to which God calls them.