Generations Inspire in General Council Service
COLUMBUS, Ohio — George Westlake III and his son, Austin Westlake, paired to give encouragement and insight to ministers through the story of Bartimaeus in Thursday morning’s General Council service held at Nationwide Arena.
Before the father-son duo began, General Superintendent Doug Clay introduced 91-year-old minister George Westlake Jr., father and grandfather to the day’s speakers, to the more than 3,000 in attendance. Sporting his traditional red sneakers and socks, George Jr. gave a testimony of how a young man came to his church and found Christ due to his choice of footwear.
Austin then stepped to the pulpit. Currently serving as director of Student Discipleship for Assemblies of God National Youth Ministries and the former district youth director for the Southern Missouri Ministry Network, he spent a few moments thanking Clay and others for the investment in the next generation.
Reintroducing the story of Bartimaeus to ministers and leaders by reading through Mark 10:46-52, Austin pointed out that the healing of Bartimaeus was one of last miracles Jesus performed before His crucifixion. And at that time, He also knew where He was going and what awaited Him in Jerusalem.
“The unique thing about Jesus,” Austin says, “was even though He knew where He was going and He was focused on what He had to do, He didn’t allow that to make Him forget why He was going where He was going . . . for the people He would pass by on the way there.”
Austin observed the danger of leaders not knowing where they were going, but also noted that it was just as dangerous for leaders to know where they were going, but not remembering why they were going.
“So much of the journey of Jesus with His disciples was spent trying to get them to understand His priorities and His perspective . . . to understand why He was doing what He was doing.” he said. “But they didn’t get it.”
Yet, about 50 days later, the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples.
“They were empowered to be an effective witness and be a part of the greatest work in time or eternity: the building of the local church,” Austin said. “That tells us that in leadership and pastoral ministry God is not looking for earthly perfection, but He is looking for a heavenly perspective . . . for us to keep His priorities as our priorities.”
Returning to Bartimaeus, Austin spoke about how the man was begging in hopes of money, resources; instead, he was given restoration. He compared that to how leaders can show up expecting God to do or say one thing, but He does or says something completely different.
“When we come into proximity with Jesus, what happens is He does so much more than we could ever expect, Austin said. “He says things we weren’t expecting to hear and sends us places we were never expecting to go.”
Austin noted that it wasn’t difficult for most leaders to find people with more ability than them, but what may be lacking in abilities is gained in awareness through the voice of the Holy Spirit.
“God can give us awareness through the power of the Holy Spirit to say what your community needs to hear, to say what your staff needs to hear, to say what your family needs to hear, to say what your children need to hear, what your friends need to hear.”
As he drew to a close, Austin reflected on the faith of Bartimaeus — a man who couldn’t see, but fully believed He was the Son of God, Austin asked, “Can you imagine having the kind of faith that stops Jesus in His tracks?”
George Westlake III, the lead pastor of Sheffield Family Life Center in inner-city Kansas City, Missouri, since 2006, is also the current assistant superintendent for the Southern Missouri Ministry Network.
In his examination of the story of Bartimaeus, George looked at how the disciples weren’t the ones to hear Bartimaeus cry out, it was Jesus — the disciples had their destination on their mind, not the ministry Jesus had called them to.
George gave an illustration from his own ministry. A school a little over a mile from his church’s main campus, one he estimated to have driven within a few blocks of about 10,000 times on his way to the church over the years, reached out for help. As an inner-city school in a high-crime area, the needs were extensive and desperate. The church met all the needs and more.
“I was driving by my mission field to get to my mission field,” he said. “I was going by the field — where God wanted me to do something — to get to the place that I thought He had destined and designed for me to do something.
“How many times do we go by Bartimaeus?” he continued “How many times do we drive by a school, a store, a gas station, a neighborhood, a hospital, a police station? How many times do we drive by to get to the place we’re called to minister, and they need our help right there?”
Then George spoke about a word that appeared to strongly resonate with ministers and leaders: “They.”
“Have you discovered that everything you do, they are around?” he asked.
Referencing Mark 10:48 and 49, George pointed out the theys — how they told Bartimaeus to be quiet, but then how Jesus sent for Bartimaeus, and they went and got him.
“I’m guessing you already know some of they were not happy about that,” George said, with the audience responding with a knowing laughter.
George then unpacked how they can be debilitating to ministers, because they never know what God wants to do, they’re just looking at things from man’s perspective.
“They’re using human perspective to try to make divine decisions,” he stated, later noting that, “They don’t care about the good that God is doing as much as they care about the fact the van was dirty from the youth using it last week.”
George shared how for many years of his ministry, he felt tortured, beat down, valueless, and incapable because of the theys. He told how the enemy will “use the machine” and feed the theys in a person’s life, and how personal insecurities join in on the attack.
“But here’s what happens in those moments. In those moments, God shows up,” George said. “And he showed up (for me) day after day after day; decision after decision after decision.”
He admits, as he followed God’s direction, he made a lot of people angry. He had to remove a lot of people who were theys. He made a lot of enemies because he was messing with the theys.
“I tell you, when God speaks direction to you, no matter who’s in your way, you have to move that direction,” George said. “When He speaks it, you have to go that way.”
George used the example of how Jim Thorpe decided to compete in the final events of the 1912 Olympics decathlon using two mismatched shoes — one smaller and the other larger than his size — because his shoes had apparently been stolen. He had actually found the shoes in the garbage. However, he still went on to win the decathlon.
“He did not let his circumstances determine the outcome,” George said. “God gave me this for you a year and a half ago: No one else gets to write the end of your story . . . no circumstances get to determine the end of your story . . . only God — it’s His call. It’s His anointing. It's His story.”
As music began to play, George called ministers and leaders to take time at that moment to allow God to minister to them, refresh them, and renew their souls.
“Allow God to speak life back into you,” George urged. “God can do through you what He’s appointed you to do because He writes your story and the end of it is His.”