Posted by: minnow | May 13, 2009

Ministry Questions

I always had big dreams–visions for ministry that were challenging, outwardly focused, and BIG.  In the last two fellowships I have been a part of (one for six years and the other for seven) leadership encouraged the congregation to “dream bigger then you could possibly accomplish on your own and then watch the Lord make it happen.”  The trouble is, at 50 I have yet to see any of those visions (dreamt by me or cast by leadership) come to fruition or even get off the ground.  So, what could possibly be the problem?

Leadership in the fellowships I have been a part of would probably suggest, “You just need to keep praying into the vision and have faith, that in God’s  time, if the vision is indeed from Him, your dream will be realized.  Of course it might not look like you originally imagined.  There could be a problem with looking for the wrong evidence.  God’s plans do not always look like our plans, after all.”  Any of that kind of encouragement sound familiar?  Frankly, I am a little sick of such reasoning.

Last Saturday the director of the foodbank I volunteer in confided that the Church leadership housing the foodbank has decided to move the foodbank out of the space which was designed specifically for them because the fellowship “needs” to rent that space in order to help meet their financial obligations (paying off the million plus dollar debt on the building).  This news grieved me and caused me to start having a lot of questions.  (Some might say I an doubting God.  I prefer to think I am questioning man but I will let you decide for yourselves).

Here is the story:  Just before the economy tanked this fellowship decided to buy its new facility for approximately 2.5 million dollars.  There were lots of reasons and BIG visions were cast for ministry in and through the building.  Just before the fellowship moved the assistant pastor (who had helped plant the Church with the senior pastor 30 years ago) and the administrative pastor resigned.  The administrator was replaced but the assistant was not.  Also at this time the decision was made to install women as elders and a School of Ministry was birthed.  Eventually, they sold the old facility for just under a million dollars.  During the transition attendance dropped off by nearly a third.  Months of time, energy, and finances were spent preparing the new facility.  Shortly after they moved in the senior pastor became ill.  He eventually passed away, despite many “words” which promised his illness would NOT end in death.  Needless to say the fellowship was reeling.

Now, two and a half years later new leadership is in place, including the former worship leader and youth pastor who function as co-pastors under the oversight of an apostolic leader who also has considerable responsibilities through out the northwest and Mexico.  As a non-denominational fellowship the decision was made to come under the umbrella of New Frontiers International, which caused the revoking of women as elders.  For a variety of reasons, the School of Ministry is also currently defunct.  The present congregation is made up of 50 percent who knew the former senior pastor and 50 percent who only know of him.  Thanks at least in part to the economy the fellowship remains in survival mode financially which brings us to their decision to move the foodbank.

From the present leadership of this fellowship I have heard the mantra–Have faith; God will provide.  So, if this fellowship was given a vision from God that they obediently followed (buying this huge building) why is it now making so many decisions out of financial desperation (trying to lease huge parts of the facility, letting various staff go, not replacing other staff, discontinuing the School of Ministry)?  In other words, where is their faith to do the ministry they were called to and trust God to provide?

I realize from the practical point of view I am making a very impractical suggestion.  Yet for me it is a little like practicing what you preach.  Week after week during the offertory (while I was part of this fellowship) I listened while someone from leadership told a story such as needing to get a repair done on his car for which he did not have the money yet deciding to write that tithe check anyway (implying that the tithe money could have covered the bill) and then, low and behold an unexpected check arrived in the mail for the exact amount he needed to get the repair done.  Proof of God’s provision, not to mention manipulation of those in the pews to “give to God and trust Him to cover your other bills.”  Grrr…(on so many levels).

I know, this sounds like so many sour grapes but I really do have a few questions.  Like: How do we make sense of God giving us vision but not provision?  When and how can/ should leadership say–I guess we got it wrong?  Or, if it is decided they did not get it wrong then why are they not going forward with the vision?  Why instead are they paring down the only ministry that is reaching to help people outside of the building?

At a personal level I am confronted by my own stuckness.  I have had a vision for ministry for a number of years.  Yet, I have done little to pursue that vision–Why?  And, what should I be doing now?  Truly, I am tired of feeling stuck, tired of feeling my hands are tied, and tired of staring at a carrot dangling in front of my nose.  I believe it is time for me to rethink the vision or at least time to rethink how it might be realized.  Does any of this sound familiar?

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Responses

  1. Minnow,
    Don’t look at it like it has not been accomplised yet. First of all think of how many people were touched at the Food bank. You have not seen yet the harvest because it has simply not come in yet. Children were fed and some day some person may come to you and say “when I was a kid…”. Ministry does not have to be some huge glamorous thing. Think of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Jesus took Philip there only at a time when he was needed.

    The Bible says “he that wins souls is wise”. It does not indicate how many, how often or which ones. If you win one, you’ve kept the word.

    Now looking at in on a broader scale, perhaps you don’t see that you have accomplished much but you indeed have. You have access to over 6 billion people. At any point in the day anyone from around the world can click on your posts and be moved. So no, you aren’t stuck. The full harvest simply has not come in yet. Just follow God as He leads you to another field. That’s all.

    You are ok. Your church, well things happen in all churches. So please don’t think there is something wrong with your vision. Habakkuk said write it down and run with it. Well you wrote, it will be ran through the many servers and ISPs. Look at this, you don’t know me but I came to your blog site willingly because I was interested in what you had to say. I read it, and I contemplate it. Now how do you know there have not been some person desperately needing you and you met their need?

    I think you have. It may not be how you think but you have. One day someone will say “when I was a kid….”

  2. Minnow,
    A quick add to that…

    Ray Boltz song

    Thank you for giving to the Lord
    I was a life that was changed.

  3. Kara–You are indeed a generous soul. Thank you.

  4. Minnow,

    I understand the frustration you have with your church; sometimes, I wonder if church leadership actually believes in the sovereignty of God, an admittedly hard doctrine to lay hold of.

    I also think we in America are enamored of the idea of “bigger is better,” so “little,” unglamorous ministries such as sponsoring food banks hold no interest for many in the church, as it often doesn’t fit a grand vision. What a shame.

  5. Minnow,

    I forgot to ask–are you able to add a search feature to this blog? I’d like to be able to look up your posts on “Building-Based Christianity,” which I’ve enjoyed in the past.

    Coming and Going

  6. E G I could probably add a search feature if I wasn’t a computer idiot. I will try to figure it out.

  7. You might want to sign into your blog, go to the ‘appearance’ section, go to ‘widgets,’ and see if ‘search’ is a widget that you can add to your blog, as not all WordPress themes allow all kinds of widgets. (I’d presume that ‘search’ would be a popular one, though.)

    Let me know what you find out.

    Coming and Going


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