A few months ago I was leading a small group and explained the theme of the book of Deuteronomy. If one could summarize the entire book into just one word it would be: remember. Before entering the Promised Land, Moses wanted to remind the people of Israel of God’s faithfulness and His command that they remind faithful to this Faithful God. God’s lovingkindness was clearly seen all throughout Israel’s story; before a new chapter was about to be written, Moses wanted to make sure the people did not forget God and His call in His people.
This idea of remembering God’s faithfulness in each season has been – and continues to be – crucial for God’s people because we are quite forgetful people. We forget important formative moments in our lives and in the stories of our churches. As I reflect back on the past year in our network, I have certainly learned new lessons; but what has been most significant has come by way of reminders of what I already know (but, on occasion, had somehow forgotten). Three particular reminders stick out to me from the past year.
Reminder #1: Ministry is difficult. We’ve walked with leaders, pastors and elder teams through some difficult situations this year. Sometimes ministry hardships are unfathomable. There are moments I’ve shaken my head and thought, “You can’t make up this stuff!” The Evil One is real and he can be quite strategic at times. There’s not a single pastor I’ve ever met whose pastored for more a few years who hasn’t told me being a pastor is hard. Yes, as if I needed the reminder, ministry is difficult. Excruciatingly difficult.
Reminder #2: If we try to take the ministry journey by ourselves, it can be toxic and harrowing lonely. We know, of course, community is important. We preach series on it in our churches. We write this as one of the core values on our websites. It’s so important we just can’t get away from it. It’s crucial not just to churches, but also for pastors and leaders, too. In October, as I led a few sessions at this year’s Genesis Church Planter Training Week in McCall, Idaho, I reflected upon the friendships that were first forged with other planters a dozen years ago at Ecclesia’s first-ever Genesis week in Richmond, VA. And I have told numerous potential Ecclesia member churches and pastors, “I shiver to think where I would be today without these friendships and relationships in my life.”
Reminder #3: Perseverance and steadfastness is way forward. Although ministry is hard – and it can feel deeply lonely at times – I was reminded it’s also worth the effort. But the effort comes not through flash-in-the-pan gimmicks or instant success changes. It’s about the faithful plodding, week in and week out. Faithfulness is not about quick and easy jumps to the top. It’s a marathon – and what is needed is a gutsy resoluteness to not give up. It is the long-view perspective is keeps me us all in ministry.
These reminders are not brilliant lessons; they are what we already know, but often forget.
Ministry is hard. It’s can’t be taken alone. It’s a marathon that involves perseverance and steadfastness to the cause of Christ. These are nothing fancy, nothing sexy. But it is the call of Jesus on our lives and in our ministries. Which makes me all the more grateful for our network, which values, affirms and reminds me of these important truths often.