To paraphrase Abe Lincoln: you cannot please everybody every time in every thing. As followers of Christ, we are called to go out and make Jesus known to those who do not yet know Him. However, getting an entire group of people behind a vision on how the best way for their group to accomplish the Great Commission is sometimes a source of contention. When believers argue about the merits of change and specific efforts to evangelize instead of earnestly praying and watching for the Lord to reveal those ways to us, hearts harden from pride and self-will, not soften in agape love for others.
When you are in the ministry staff position dealing with it, it can feel like a toothache that will only go away if (a) you leave or (b) you are asked to leave. Either way, the toothache is over, and it’s not your battle to fight anyway. There’s an epiphany, right?
Until the desires of His heart become the desires of our own hearts and love for those who do not yet know Him fill our consciousnesses, break our hearts and motivate our actions, we are incapable of becoming the missional body Jesus commanded us to be. If it is not God’s timing to corporately open spiritual eyes, ears and hearts to get out of our comfort zones and reach beyond our walls to help those who do not yet know Christ experience the real Jesus, then no matter what the ministry staff believes we are Spirit-led to do, we will continue to meet resistance from within a congregation that does not embrace its leadership’s vision.
What to do? What to do? Take it personally? Beat yourself up that you must not be not doing God’s work “right”? Be upset that not everybody likes you? Pout that people won’t cooperate and do things your way? Drop out of ministry altogether because you can’t take the heat when things don’t go smoothly? Wallow in self-pity and discouragement and allow the devil to make you ineffective for the Kingdom? No, as a Christian leader I can affirm from years of experience that the answer is certainly none of the above.
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:13-14
Paul reminds us that there is constant spiritual warfare between God’s will, satan’s will and man’s self-will going on around us. He also reminds us that we are not to give up easily, but to keep pressing on toward the goal. Ultimately, we need to know that the battle is not ours to fight, but God’s, and we may be simply in the right place but at the wrong time. In Exodus 2 and Acts 7, the Bible tells us that Moses – by faith – felt the Lord’s call to deliver His people, but God had not yet swept through the hearts of all of those who needed to come on board with “the plan,” so when Moses acted too quickly for God’s timing, “the plan” was not well received. Jesus told His disciples not to bang their heads trying to force people to believe, but to share what needed to be shared and move on to the next place if the message is not welcomed where you are.
We may simply be the herald of “the plan” and not the ones God is going to use to ultimately lead a particular group of His people where He wants them to go. He may merely desire that we introduce the vision to the people and then step aside or move on altogether while someone else steps in and takes them on all or even just the next portion of the journey. After all, it wasn’t Moses who ultimately led the Hebrews into the promised land, it was Joshua.
As servants of the Lord, we must be obedient to how the Lord chooses to use our willingness to serve Him and accept that it may not be His will for us to be the ones who bring the complete vision into reality. It also may not be in His will for us to suffer continuous blows of the enemy while awaiting His perfect timing for a breakthrough to victory. Regardless of our own individual tenacity and ability to endure under stress, that endurance may be wasting effort the Lord wishes us to expend elsewhere on a different mission.
One thing I’ve learned well over two decades of Christian ministry: our timing is not necessarily His, His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts, so our purpose in being in a certain place at a certain time may have never been to accomplish the ultimate end goal that we envisioned and believed we were called there to set in place. I think that sometimes God puts people with vision in place as catalysts to merely wake up the local slumbering from their states of complacency and stir up a grass-roots call to action so that the work may begin from within the ranks while the Lord moves us on to the next place He requires our specific gifts and talents to accomplish His vision.
And thus, we move on. All praise be to God for His infinite wisdom!
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 4:4-7