Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Be Strong and Courageous

I meet many people who seem overwhelmed by the circumstances of life.  Some slip into depression while others escape into entertainment or addiction.  Some simply shut down altogether or run from the problem as far and as fast as they can.  I am no stranger to these emotions and temptations.  Sometimes I am overwhelmed with the enormity of the task in front of me. I have the challenges of raising three children (one with special needs) and having a spouse working full time.

The foremost challenge in front of me today however, is leading a church through a period of transition.  This endeavor is not for the faint of heart.  I am not blind to the fact that the majority of church transitions fail.  But I honestly believe that when I took over as senior pastor of our church, "doing nothing" wasn't an option.  The Holy Spirit had clearly revealed to me the necessity of leading the church to make some significant changes if we were going to thrive (and perhaps even survive) in the years ahead.  Although things looked OK right now, the time had come for a new chapter to begin.  In the last few years the Lord had accomplished a lot of healing in the church, but now the Lord wanted us to take the next step.

The biggest surprise I experienced was the real presence of fear.  It's not something I'm used to.  I might look like I'm an indefatigable person and indeed, this is often how I viewed myself in the past.  But the truth is, I am susceptible to bouts of self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy for the task, and the constant reality that I'm a spiritual leader but still battling the sinful nature. I'm also not immune to the discouragement of receiving negative comments.  Each one of these is enough to sink me.  But that's exactly what the church doesn't need.  God has clearly told me that if I'm going to lead his church into a new day, I cannot shrink back--I have to be strong and courageous.  Not with a spirit of arrogance or insensitivity but with Spirit-led boldness.

Once the journey of moving with God has begun, we cannot look back.  To do so would invite disaster.  God doesn't approve of those who "look back".  Lot's wife was severely punished for looking back.  She was turned into a pillar of salt.  Jesus Himself said, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62) 

I meet people who are all excited about change in the church.  What some of them aren't as concerned about however, is seeing any significant personal change in their own lives.  What they forget is that you cannot have one without the other.  Allowing God to humble us, change us, and shape our attitudes and actions towards others is essential to being used effectively by Him and in His church.  Denying the need for real personal change (growing in holiness in Christ) only proves that we are ultimately concerned about only having an "exciting" church, not a truly transformational church.  Too many churches have been built on this model, much to their spiritual detriment.  I have also met people who talk a good game about wanting change, but when the reality of that change starts to become real, some balk at it.  I hear comments like, "we need balance", or "we need to move slowly".  While there certainly is truth in these statements, I fear that they are often code for, "we don't want to change very much".   The proof is often found in the attitude (sometimes verbalized) that says, "I want our church to grow, but not that much (or at least slowly)".  What does this betray?  That we prefer our comfort over the heart of God, who wants all to become saved and that time is of the essence.

Going with God means uncomfortable change.  It means a sense of urgency in getting on with the mission of evangelism.  It means a sense of urgency in getting on with the mission of growing in holiness.  This willingness to change is rare however, and calling people to this kind of change is tough work.  Sadly many churches (and Christians) fail to allow this type of change to happen in their lives.  This is where fearless leadership is required.  If there is to be fresh outpouring of the Spirit in our life and in the life of the church it is absolutely necessary that we embrace BIG UNCOMFORTABLE CHANGE.  If you want real change like this, ask God to embolden you for the road ahead.  He will not fail you. 

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." (I Corinthians 15:57-58)