Help For Those On The Front Lines Of Ministry.

Past Updates

Feb 02, 2005
Hope in Desperate Places

There is a congregation, perhaps your neighbors church, where there isn’t much hope. Eight pastors in five years. Animosity between conflicting families, even within families. And finally a pastor arrives who has come to bring hope and who knows that eight pastors in five years indicate the spiritual bankruptcy of this congregation. And this pastor isn’t here to win approval, instead she has her eye on heaven, on standing before the Lord with nothing to hide, and she knows these people need more than “love and acceptance.”

Proverbs 29:17—Discipline a child and when she grows up you will be delighted in her.

How many other pastors in the last 30 years should have disciplined these people? How many supervisors (Bishops, Supervising Elders, District pastors) should have come to this place and said, “boys and girls, grow up or you will face discipline, which for the moment is not pleasant but which is always profitable.” But none did, none!

I met a team, two pastors—husband and wife—who have done just this. Bill says, “I am an interim pastor. It is how I am hard wired. O sure I would love to stay and relax, but my gifts are needed. There are so many of these small conflicted, missionless, family dominated congregations. And either they grow up or they will be close. “. His wife, Robin, has even fewer mercy gifts. "These children need discipline."

It has been tough. They keep their blinds pulled—makes it harder for anyone to shoot them. They stay well connected to the source of their joy, Jesus Christ. They love each other and Bill is right…they are hard wired for this type of ministry.

Bill has this wonderful way of cutting through the crap. When people with bad attitudes surface, Bill grabs them, puts his big arm around them, and whispers in their ear, “you know brother, you need to get your life and heart right with God.” Some spit back, “you do too.” Others storm out. Bill doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. But neither is he or his wife fooled by the ugly, mean spirited, non Christian behavior of many on the Board of this church. (Maybe next week I’ll write about how this has happened…but that is another day.)

So how do I know that Bill is succeeding? Let me tell you. Giving is up. Attendance is up, and some of the most angry have begun to stay home, preferring to lie in the grass, waiting for an opportunity to pounce on anyone who makes a mis step. Others, long time residents-real insiders, have risen to leadership. But you know what? All those thing pale beside what I saw on Sunday morning.

I entered the main worship center and there sitting in the very front row were four small children, under the age of 8. Bill and Robin start each service with an invitation to come to chancel rail and to pray for the service, to get your heart right with God (It is a theme for Bill and Robin—how can you run the church if your heart isn’t right). As Bill was explaining what we were about to do, the four children began talking:
Boy 1: (to girl to his right) “you going up today?”
Girl 1: (to the boy to her right), “you going up today?”
Boy 2: (to Girl 1), “I might, what about you?”
Girl 1: (to both boys,) “Yep, I am going up,”
Boy 1: (to me), “we are going up, you coming with us?” (they didn’t know me from Adam)
Me; (to them all), “you go up and I will go up.”
Girl 1: (to us all), “Let go now!”

Bill wasn’t finished inviting us, but this unlikely group, three small children and one middle aged stranger made their way to the chancel rail. Soon we were surrounded by others, and still they came. Most with tears in their eyes. Most came seeking help, comfort. But these three children came to pray, “God be here today. We need you.” All I could do was weep.

There is tremendous hope, even in desperate places,

And a little child will lead them.

I want to go back here in 10 and 20 years. I want to see what these children will do with this wonderful hope, this wonderful willingness to go first, to lead, to ask, “God be here today, we need you.”

I wonder, what would happen in your congregation if you started your next worship service like this?