Are you called to be a compassion entrepreneur? Do you have ideas and impulses to help people? I want to share some wisdom for entrepreneurs that will help you respond to your calling.
First, let me share a story of a man who inspired me.
‘Last night while you slept, I heard you speaking in tongues.’ These were the words of my eighty-five year old roommate Marshall Ruthven. It was not the first time I had spoken in tongues. But it was the first time I became aware of speaking in tongues while I slept.
Marshall was my roommate for two weeks in 1987. He came to Markham Pentecostal Church and asked the senior pastor Dean Skinner if he could go visiting door-to-door throughout the neighborhood.
As a ‘twenty-something’ single youth pastor, I was in my second year of ministry and still figuring out how to serve God faithfully as a pastor. God had been dealing with me in those days to help me overcome my fear of failure and need for approval. I wanted to serve God with all my heart but was having difficulty figuring out church life.
So God sent an old man to share meals and sleep in the bed on the other side of the room. I discovered that old men sound differently when they sleep. While younger people breathe slow and deep, he sipped the air gently like hot tea.
Somehow, he was awake in the night and heard a skinny preacher kid praying in tongues. I didn’t know that I was that spiritual, considering that I was single, full of hormones and socially insecure.
Here was an original Pentecostal pioneer noting that ‘I had it’. My two weeks with Marshall taught me much about trusting God and not paying attention to the accolades of my peers.
During his twenties, Marshall became a follower of Jesus. He left his successful business career as a machinist and responded to God’s call in his life to plant churches.
First, he built a trailer that he could haul behind a truck. The trailer was a portable church on wheels constructed of plywood and included his family living quarters.
When he pulled into a town that lacked a Pentecostal church, he would seek permission to park his trailer. Then he would unfold the trailer to reveal a modest church building on wheels.
Next, he would go door-to-door in the community introducing himself. He would tell people about Jesus until some of them believed. With a handful of new believers he would start a church. When he felt it was time to move on, he would secure a pastor to move into the community and the church would find a new place to meet. Marshall and his family would pack up the trailer and go find another town needing a new church.
He planted 37 churches throughout Western Canada and the Western States. He never collected a pay cheque. He had even been a missionary to the Doukhobors, Russian immigrants who had settled communally in Canada.
They did not believe in government interference in their lives and protested in unusual ways. They were pacifists who took off all their clothes to note their disagreement with government policies. Marshall held services for the Doukhobors where some of them showed up naked.
Eventually, Marshall and his wife lived in Shepherd’s Village, a retirement community in the Toronto area. He never truly retired and that is why we had him in Markham for a couple weeks.
All of his adult Christian life, he had gone door-to-door every day. An average day would cover 150 homes. When someone answered the door, they were met by a white-haired, small-framed gentleman in a black suit.
“Hello, my name is Marshall Ruthven and I’m not a Jehovah’s Witness. I’m a retired preacher visiting your neighborhood and I wonder if I could speak with you for a few minutes.”
He did this every day. It always led to praying with a half-dozen people and some began a relationship with Jesus. The sight of Marshall at your door was charming, disarming and intriguing.
He was a simple man who came to visit with one suit of clothes. All he asked the pastor for was a bed to sleep in, a meal and the opportunity to bring along anyone who wanted to learn about evangelism. We were not the only church to take him in. Or perhaps we were ‘taken in’ by the sight of a real-life pioneer… a genuine compassion entrepreneur. He passed away in 1994.