More than likely every one of us can identify somewhere in our life or ministry where we are facing a crucial crossroad. Perhaps it’s a decision, a need for direction, or maybe we stand in a place of great need and we can’t go forward without God’s provision. What we do in these moments will define us.
This question is fresh on my mind because our local ministry is facing just such a crossroad. We’ve come to a place where we are in need of God-sized resources to achieve the ministry vision. Having finally determined a solid cost estimate for the next phase, it was time for our next board meeting. I envisioned the meeting going something like this. We would spend some time in listening prayer, and then hear from each board member what our next steps should look like. I envisioned we would be brainstorming various fund raising ideas.
Instead, what came out of our listening prayer was a strong impression that we were not to make any decisions about fund raising strategies until we had all completed a 40 Day Prayer Challenge. One board member had been blessed by reading Mark Batterson’s “Draw the Circle” which provides just such a 40 day challenge. The readings for each day reflect the truths of God’s willingness to answer prayer and some amazing examples of such prayers being answered. It was a consensus. We would all purchase the book and engage in the experience. A week later, we all had our books in hand and began the journey. As I write this we are on day 13.
Already I sense God stirring my heart as I’m walking through this process. I sense my faith growing stronger and more vibrant as I anticipate the things God is going to do in us through this journey. Will we have the necessary funds by the time we finish the challenge? That’s not our expectation, but I do believe we will hear from God and know how He wants us to proceed. I believe we will also see God doing greater things in each of our lives and answering many of our personal prayers along the way.
As I contemplated this, I wondered how many times in my life and ministry I have faced a crucial crossroad, felt the pressure to do something, and rushed into a strategy of my own design. I know I’ve often succumbed to the pressure to perform even if it was just to avoid embarrassment. It has happened most often when I feel personally responsible for the outcome. But if what I’m doing is God’s idea the pressure’s off. I can rest in the fact that what He ordains He will maintain. If it’s His vision He will provide the wisdom, funding, manpower or whatever resource it takes to get the job done. Any other way of living is exhausting. We all know this. “Even the young will grow weary and faint and fall down exhausted, but those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength…” (Isaiah 40:30-31) We know this in principle. It’s clear in our heads. When will it reach our hearts?
People pleasing plays a role here. I’ve found myself driven to perform just to avoid disappointing others. When that drive surpasses my desire to hear from God, and do only those things He asks, I easily succumb to ministry in my own strength which is similar to a kind of frenzy. Instead of peace I experience anxiety. Sure, checking items off my to-do list gives me a buzz, but it doesn’t really advance the kingdom if it isn’t in step with the Spirit. And isn’t it true that anything God expects us to give He has already given to us?
It goes without saying that if Jesus spent time in the wilderness before launching his public ministry, a night in prayer before selecting his disciples, and an agonizing night in the garden before the cross, we need to do the same at crucial crossroads in our own lives.
I see this as a significant need among us who are responsible to lead the church and shepherd God’s flock. Maybe the greatest need we have as pastors is to hear from God. And we both know this will never come without quieting our hearts before Him with a hunger to hear so strong that it drowns out the other voices.
If I had to identify the greatest danger we face as pastors it would be the danger of feeling adequate. If our gifting enables us to cruise through the challenges of ministry without a strong sense of dependence on God, we will miss the mark. I want to be more like Gideon who was well aware of his weakness and even more when God further reduced his army. Or more like David, who didn’t advance confidently toward Goliath because of his strength, but because of the quiet days he experienced tending the sheep.
This paradoxical combination of an awareness of our weakness along with a confidence in God’s power and direction will keep us moving forward in the race until we see Jesus face to face. What is the crucial crossroad you’re facing?