The Danger of Cynicism In Ministry

Sometimes you don’t see how far you’ve come until you see how far you’ve been. Once in a while I read old journals and thoughts I had about things in the past. This was one of those times.

In December 2013 I was miserable in ministry. All of 2012 I had been seriously contemplating leaving my fellowship. I was sad that people didn’t care about evangelism the way I did. We were in a perpetual decent into complacency and apathy; nothing I tried seemed to work. That sadness turned to resentment, bitterness, and at moments — anger.

My new pastor that took over the ministry in 2012 had some big ideas and was motivated to make some real positive changes. He had shared with me his vision for the fellowship, and I was actually getting excited. There was hope and a light at the end of the tunnel. I decided to give it one more year, and if things didn’t go in the positive direction, my wife and I would leave. This was the account of my last straw.

Reading through my 2014 journal entries, it was a miracle I survived at all. During a leadership meeting to kick off the Pastor’s vision, an elder set the tone and said in front of the entire congregation that he was not going with me to evangelize on the street and that he opted out to do other things. Shortly after that, two people on my team left the church to seek fellowship elsewhere. Depressed, discouraged and tired of hearing people say, ‘I can’t’ or ‘I won’t,’ I was zealously determined to push forward and take care of the outreach portion I was asked to. Even if it meant doing it by myself.

At this time, my mentor who left the fellowship a few years prior was temporarily staying with me as he looked for a place to live. One afternoon I was watching the Way of the Master Basic Training Course (WOTM) that I was preparing to teach. Coming home from work, he walked through the front door and asked, “What are you watching?”

“The Way of the Master Basic Training Course, ” I said confidently.

“People aren’t going to do that. You’re wasting your time. ” And proceeded to tell me how may times he’s tried to do it, how complacent the church was, and how they much rather feed people behind a counter as they go to hell not knowing anything about the gospel.

Welcome to month one.

The several months that followed got worse and worse. Work was beyond stressful, and my boss was coming down on me for the first time in my career. The day I started the WOTM, I got hit with a lawsuit for something I didn’t do, and debt collectors were calling for a loan I never made. I was beyond stressed. People in my Romans bible study were encouraging me to pack it in, that I’ve had enough, and I just needed to give up for my own health and sanity. My cats, who are brothers started fighting really bad, and we had to separate them for a while, one had to go to the vet hospital. Less than a month later I got hurt at work and broke a finger on my right hand. To make matters worse, my wife looked at me at the end of all of this and said, “I miss the man I fell in love with back in 1996.” Even though I wasn’t saved back then, I missed him too. I had trouble in every area of my life, and there was nowhere to run but up. I was beyond disappointed; I was bitter, cynical, angry and I was ready to pack it in and be done. I was broken and no matter what I prayed it felt like God wasn’t listening either.

In a last ditch effort, I called my friend and former Pastor to talk even though he was in another country. He gave me some advice that resonated with me even to this day that he learned from an older missionary couple in Costa Rica.

“There are two types of missionaries: those who get bitter, and those who get better.”

Yes, I was going through a real tough time. Yes, there were things that was happening in my life beyond my control. But it was how I was reacting to those things that really was the problem in my life. I had to focus on what I could control: my cynicism. Nothing kills ministry more effectively than cynicism. You cannot lead a healthy ministry when your worldview is jaded by disappointment, lethargic people, and bitterness. Here are some of the consequences cynicism will severely hinder your ministry over time, and take a toll on it’s leader most of all.

It will cause you to not love others the way you should.

There are so many reasons why this is number one. We do ministry to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength; and to love others as ourselves. We can’t do that when we are cynical towards them. A cynical heart and mind tells you that you cannot trust anyone, can’t forgive them when they wrong you, can’t hope for the better, and that people are incapable of changing for the better.

But what would we be without hope? We would be unsaved. According to 1 Corinthians 13, hope is wrapped in love. Hoping for the best is a part of love. It helps us move forward and look with optimism towards the future. It keeps us from giving up. When we have that optimism we know that we are not doing ministry in vain. What we do matters, even if we do it alone.

We, the church are the hands and feet of Christ, and we need to work together. It starts first with love, which is the glue that holds it all together. When I’m cynical towards my brother and sister, things unravel, and that three-fold cord unravels.

You’ll be Afraid or Unwilling to Take Risks

Risk is a part of any ministry, especially evangelism. There is so much risk involved, but if we are afraid of doing something because we are tired or dismayed by the rejection we may face by my brother or sister in the faith, we will miss great opportunities that the Holy Spirit is wanting to do with us. We cannot dwell on past failures, or how people reacted to things you wanted to do prior to the latest idea. Dwelling on the past always leads to cynicism, but being optimistic and moving forward is the key to maintaining steadfastness in the faith.

People sometimes frustrate our ideas and plans because they are afraid themselves, don’t want to do the work, or even lazy. As an Evangelist or leader in ministry — that is not your problem. You need to motivate and help them as much as possible, see the added benefit of what you plan to do. If they don’t see the benefit, fellowship with other believers who do. Maybe their testimony will be the fire that is needed to set the spark of your ideas aflame.

Cynicism Will Frustrate Your Creativity

Frustration in the simplest terms is not a feeling, it is a verb — something that happens. The people perish with a lack of vision. There is a saying among Evangelists towards the church; that we belong to a group called: Club Frustration. It’s a dance club, where the Evangelist dances to the beat of the Pastor and Elders and are not given the freedom to do what he knows he needs to do. The constant barrage of, “No’s” leaves the Evangelist feeling as if he or she is a second-class Christian. All their good ideas are filed away in the trash can.

But does this have to be this way?

Staying disillusioned and distrustful of others will not bring life to your vision — but kill it. Sometimes we have to step back and regroup. Maybe the idea is too grand or big for others to get onboard or even see that it is possible. Instead of eating the whole cake of our big idea, perhaps all we need to do is take a bite-sized piece and give it to someone to taste. Let it melt in their mouth, savor the flavor of the idea, and when their eyes widen in amazement they say, ‘You know, that was really good.’

We are not “Spinal Tap;” our amps don’t go to 11. When we feel like we are not being heard, we don’t yell louder. We need to step back, regroup, and try a different approach for others to see the benefit of our ideas.

What if your idea really does suck?

We need to take creative criticism on the chin. Maybe what we really need is to look in the mirror and ask if it’s us. I’m not saying give up on your idea, but more often than not, we need to swallow our pride and get ourselves out of the way.

There were times in my life I frustrated my own walk. If you ask my wife, she’ll tell you I’m probably still doing that. Self-sabotage is our own fault, not others — hence the name. If someone is willing to give us the hard truth, we need to be willing to listen to it.

Ten year fog

In the beginning of this article, I shared frustrations half way through my sanctification. That was then, this is now. Now, I am one of those leaders in my fellowship. As I look back on how I felt ten years ago, I have to honestly look in the mirror and ask, “Was I ready?” Even more so, I have to answer, “No I wasn’t.”

But, like the advice I gave earlier, it’s time to move forward.

Valuable lessons have been learned through the past decade. Besides not letting myself become cynical, allowing the process to take place. Taking risks and making my own path was helpful. But most of all — not quitting. Not allowing my anger or frustration to overtake me. I wouldn’t be in the trusted position I am now.

When inside a thick fog it is impossible to see. We can’t control the fog; we just have to wait for the sun to shine through and shed light on the situation. Time can heal many wounds — if you let it.

Pella Tulip Time Gospel Outreach 2022: Day 3

Traveling down to Pella was even more tiring than the past two days. Last night I had some great sleep, but the pains and soreness of walking and standing was starting to set in. Worried that my knee was going to act up again, I was hoping that wherever I was I could be able to sit.

I was glad that my wife came with me, and Jami, a friend and prayer partner from church was meeting us there. I knew it was going to be a good day. It’s so much better to know that people you know from your fellowship are supporting you. Even though many evangelists belong to “Club Frustration,” and that we are all in this together, even though we are in separate places, it’s comforting to have people who you fellowship with you every week are there.

After the morning teaching session with Eddie Roman of Living Waters Ministry, we broke up into teams. I obviously took my wife and Jami along, but was surprised with the additional team member — the headline speaker, Dr. Robert Carter. We had some good conversation at the booth about evangelism, but he admitted that with his time with the other leaders he was unable to have a conversation with a stranger. I said, “That’s going to change today.” With a nervous smile, we prayed and went to get a bite to eat.

After lunch we started walking and they nervously asked where we were going. I responded, “We are going to take people’s pictures, and then give them a tract and try to engage in conversation.” I don’t think they really understood, but that’s ok. The weather was really getting nice, and warm; much different than what they forecasted earlier in the week.

We got to the edge of the canal and put my hands behind my back. They all looked at each other, but I said, “We are going to wait right here and wait for the fish to come.” I could imagine what they were thinking, but they trusted me. “Couples will come over and try to take pictures of themselves, but they are going to give me their phone and I will take their picture and start a conversation.” They laughed, but that’s exactly what was about to happen. Just then a couple came up and tried to get a picture.

“Would you like to get a picture together; I can take that for you?”

“Oh, that would be awesome; thank you.” Handing over their phone to me, I took a few shots and gave it back.

“Are you both from around here?” They replied that they were not, and so I gave them a pamphlet about Pella’s Christian Roots, the founding of the town, and an inspirational message on the back along with the website. After explaining it to them we talked for a minute and went our separate ways. Turning around, Dr. Carter smiled and I could tell he was thinking it can’t be that easy. But it is. I took some more pictures of different couples and families to solidify that this wasn’t just a one-and-done; that even when I was denied the phone all I had to do was joke, “I’m not very fast, and I know you’ll be able to catch me.” They would laugh and gladly hand it over. I even told them, “I’m a millionaire, I don’t need your phone,” and hand them a million dollar gospel tract.

I knew Dr. Carter was totally relaxed and wanted to try it. So he did. He did great. He never flinched, and walked up to the couples with grand confidence. He did it again, and again…each time more relaxed than the first. It was fun to watch, and elated for him. I walked up to the last time he tried this method to see how he was doing. He was overjoyed.

We left this couple and went back to the edge of the canal to talk.

I looked at him and asked, “Who told you that witnessing had to be difficult?” He paused, but I can see his wheels were spinning. I asked again, “Who told you evangelism had to be hard?” He didn’t say anything. “We are to be a blessing, not a burden. We are to be helpful, not harmful…right?” He nodded, and smiled even bigger.

I asked him, “Robert, what did we do here today?”

He thought about it for a moment and said, ‘We saw a problem and lent a helping hand. Then we gave them a tract or the gospel.’ I smiled, and he laughed out loud. It really was that easy. I had to hide tears building up in my eyes because I just saw a changed life right before my eyes. Not the life we as evangelists usually look for, but I believe these life changing moments are even more important. Why? Because this changed life will go and change other lives with the knowledge of the bible, and creation that he already knows. There is no learning curve.

My wife, Lisa really stepped out in faith as well trying out the picture taking evangelism method and seeing that it actually works. The people she talked with were Christians already, but it was awesome to see her out of her comfort zone and do it.

Honestly, it is too much to teach a person everything about evangelism in a weekend like this. It takes patience, determination, and much discipleship to get there. A person needs time to watch, try it out, mess up, and have victories. It takes time to learn a skill as well as well as to apply it. That’s why discipleship is so necessary in learning. You never get experience without doing something over and over again.

We decided to take some tracts and walk around the canal area. I had gotten into some conversations with a man who was sitting alone and some boys that were in an alley along the canal. Then take some other pictures in other places, just in time to watch one of our leaders, Brad, do some open air preaching.

After the last teaching session with Eddie Roman, it was time to say our goodbyes to all our friends until we meet again at the next outreach. It’s always a sad time, at least for me because we are all in this together, but alone in the places we fellowship and go to church. We all learned so much this weekend. The teaching from Dr. Carter, Eddie Roman, and guidance from Tony Ramsek are top notch. Dr. Carter thanked me several times that I helped him get out of his comfort zone and step out in faith. I can only lead, but it takes the individual to actually move and do what I suggest. I’m thankful for the leading of the Holy Spirit, and the faithfulness of him really wanting to grow. Praise God; what a great weekend.

Pella Tulip Time Gospel Outreach 2022: Day 1

As I am typing this it is 11:10 pm; I’m exhausted, but so excited that I just couldn’t wait to tell of the amazing things God has done today with my group.

As I was making my hour long way to Pella, IA I lamented the fact that I didn’t prepare as much as I wanted to, and have the conversations I had hoped to have before this trip. It was bad enough that I felt inadequate going in, but in addition to teach others how to share their faith on the street was a little much. As I got out of the car and collected my things, God reminded me that it’s all about Him, and not about me anyways, and chill out.

It was great to catch up and joke with those I haven’t seen since working at the Answers In Genesis booth at the Iowa State Fair. There is a special bond between evangelists that frankly don’t compare with the other offices of the faith. We suffer together, laugh together, help each other, and got each others back on a moment’s notice. It’s through this doing faith together that draws us closer.

After the initial teachings it was time to meet with my group, get to know each other, and then hit the street to share the gospel to those at the festival. Neither anyone in my team ever shared the gospel. The young man was 25 and newly married; been a Christian for just a few years. The older woman in my group was in her seventies and had been a Christian since she was 9 years old; this was her first time as well.

Young man at our booth

We set up the booth outside the church we were having our meetings and kept our tracts. We were receiving ample amount of people passing through. As we passed out tracts, I was guiding and sharing my thoughts and how to give them out with more confidence. As I was leading the way, a young man was walking towards the table, and I confidently handed him a tract.

At first he was snarky about it, even a little flippant, but he never kept walking. He asked what it was and I said it was a gospel tract.

"Do you know what the gospel is?" I asked. 

"No." 

"It means, 'good news'. But it's not good news unless you know the bad news, right? If I were a doctor and told you that you had a horrible disease and you were going to die within a year, but I had the cure and you needed to take it, how would it sound to you?" 

"Well, I don't feel like I need to take it, and actually feel great. It would actually sound pretty ridiculous," he said. 

"You're absolutely right. It would sound pretty dumb. But, what if I showed you your pathology chart, the results of your blood work, among other things and the proof that you really had this disease. How would you feel about the cure then?" 

"I would want it!" He said. "Not only that, but it would make the cure less weird." 

"That's right. So, did you know that God has given us our pathology charts to show us that we indeed have a disease, called 'sin'. It's called, the Ten Commandments. This is God's standard of goodness. So, let me ask you how you're doing to see if you have this disease. Fair?" 

"Yeah, sounds fair," he said as he looked even more intrigued from when he came over. 

So, I proceeded to ask him if he ever told a lie, stolen anything, looked at a woman with lust, and he answered yes to all, but and showed him where his standard of goodness was different than God’s. I also took my bible and showed him verses like Ephesians chapter 2 and other places where he had some questions. The conversation went very well, and in the end he understood God’s justice, mercy, and grace all are combined in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He thanked me as I gave him my card and the tract, “Why Christianity,” which explains how Christianity is different than any other religion.

Picture perfect evangelism

After the next team took over the booth, the grandmother and I did some witnessing on the streets of the festival, where the young man in our group had to go. When going from area to area, I showed the various places that I’ve had good encounters with people, things to watch for, and so on. But I was telling her that this is the easiest festival to share the gospel because you can stand in one area, have the fish come to you, take their picture, and share the gospel to them. She laughed, but we did just that.

We stood at the edge of the canal in Pella, right at this spot and waited. A couple came over and the lady leaned on the railing as her boyfriend took a picture. I winked at the lady I was training and walked up to the couple.

"Would you like a picture with the two of you together?" I said confidently. 

"Oh yes that would be amazing!" The young lady leaped as she was handing over her IPhone. I snapped a few pictures and handed it back. 

After I received many thanks I said, "Are you from around here? We have these informational booklets which describes Pella's Christian heritage and roots. We even have an informational page on our website if you are interested." 

At that point, they were very happy to take anything we had. I linked up the website using a QR code, and gave them the booklets and sharing a little about the gospel.

My trainee wanted to know more and was elated to experiment with her new way of sharing Jesus with the lost. We went to several places, and various ways to do this kind of evangelism; also sharing how I make it lighthearted, joke with those whom I am filming, and how I talk people into doing it. One woman was reluctant to hand over her phone, to which I replied, “I can’t run fast, and I’m confident you can catch me easily.” She laughed and joyfully handed me her device.

After we finished our last teaching session, it was time to make the trip home and start again in the morning. As I walked through the door, excitement filled my heart again as I shared how amazing my day went, how the Holy Spirit guided through conversations, and how blessed I was that He used me to teach and guide someone who wants to get out of their comfort zone. Can’t wait for what tomorrow brings. Oh look, it is tomorrow already –12:33am.

Fellowship of the Unashamed

“I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I’m a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still.

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotion, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me… my banner will be clear!”

by Dr. Robert Moorehead, former Pastor of Seattle’s Overlake Christian Church.

Good Friday Evangelism

On Good Friday I decided to go out with a pack of Easter Million Dollar Bills and hit the streets to try to get into a conversation with a stranger to ask about what Good Friday and Easter mean to them.

To be honest, the entire day was somewhat uneventful. It was cold outside and not many people out. Those that were out were either jogging, listening to their headphones, or both. The malls in the area were about dead — as much as the actual malls were. Several that I went to many stores were closed; others were completely out of business.

For the people that were out, I tried to get into conversations, but no one would stick around for a conversation. I first went to the Gray’s Lake Walk Bridge overlooking Des Moines. The great part of this bridge is that it is littered with donation plaques that say things like, “In memory of…” As I was walking on the bridge I stopped a woman and gave her a tract. She laughed: not at the clever way I presented the gospel on such a timely day as this, but at me calling me an idiot for believing in such foolishness. As she walked away, I was able to ask her, “Why do they call it Good Friday? What makes it good? Not only that, but what about all the people who’s plates are on this bridge saying, ‘in memory of…’ Was it good for them?” I knew she heard what I said, acknowledging me with her one finger salute, and wasn’t pointing to God to give Him glory either.

It’s important to use your surroundings as a springboard to use to start a spiritual conversation. Like this bridge, while walking on it there is a constant reminder that their life will end at some point as it happened with many who’s memories are remembered on the plaques that litter the bridge. I was also able to combine that with Good Friday to make it more impactful.

But even if you are the most eloquent speaker with a list of funny anecdotes; without the Holy Spirit sowing the ground of their hearts and drawing them to Himself, they will never hear, understand, and receive the gospel (John 6:44, 65). We as Christians committed to sharing the gospel should not take rejection personally, but should use it to give us thick skin in the sight of adversity.

Sharing Christ Within Your Personality Style

In the middle of 2020 my wife and I were really struggling communicating. Constant fighting and lots of crying, I couldn’t make heads-or-tails out of it. Since the Bible says that husbands are to dwell with their wives with understanding, I realized in that moment that I wasn’t understanding her.

In hopes to make things right with my wife, I took this personality test to find out what my personality type was according to the Myers-Briggs – an introspective self-report questionnaire with the purpose of indicating differing psychological preferences in how people perceive the world around them and make decisions. It classified me as an INTJ-T, which is:

78% Introverted
59% Intuitive
64% Thinking
51% Judging
75% Turbulent

This put me in a category of only 2% of the population with the likes of C.S. Lewis, Dwight Eisenhower, and Thomas Jefferson just to name a few. Pretty good company I would say. Here are some of the unique characteristics of being an introvert:

Introverts Reach Inward To Gain Energy.

Introverts gain strength and build up energy during their downtimes in quiet environments. They like social gatherings, but with the least amount of people as possible. We like people, but not too many.

Introverts Enjoy Quiet Environments

Put an introvert in a noisy environment, and watch their energy drain quickly. When the action in at the climax, they start to yawn and get tired. If they are driving and need to concentrate on directions, they always turn down the radio.

Introverts Think Alone

Introverts can work with people, but when it comes to sorting their thoughts, they need time alone. They are usually good listeners, and are deep thinkers.

Introverts Don’t Like Shallow Relationships

Introverts prefer having a few close friendships rather than a multitude of acquaintances. They really care about what people think, and how they feel. Introverts want solid relationships and to thrive in one-on-one conversation.

Introverts Prefer to Communicate in Writing.

Introverts prefer to communicate in writing because they care about what is being said. They want to be able to look at it from different points of view, and analyze what is written. Since they are deep thinkers, they may write a few drafts of an email before sending it out. They prefer to write instead of talk face-to-face.


They Tend to Focus On One Thing At a Time

Multitasking is difficult for an introvert and get overwhelmed very quickly, especially under too much stimulation. Introverts need to focus on one thing at a time in bite-sized pieces. Too many tasks can lead to procrastination and needing to recharge by playing video games, reading, or working on something like a puzzle or coloring.

No Excuse to Not Share the Gospel

Even though I am very introverted, and this list describes me to a T, it doesn’t excuse me from evangelism. I just do it differently than those who are extroverted. It’s not that I have to do it a certain way, but it’s the way that is most comfortable. Let’s face it, evangelism and sharing Christ with strangers is difficult and uncomfortable no matter how it is done. But I can do it in a way that is most comfortable and fits my personality.

Introverts, like myself, care what people think. So we are very sensitive in how we approach others. I don’t like just sitting on a corner and passing out tracts. I’ve done it, but I hate it. I would rather have a deep one-on-one conversation with someone instead of shoving a tract in their face. I am a quiet person who thinks deeply and wants to reach others who think deeply. So instead of talking to every person I see, I am more selective in the people I want to talk to. I would rather pick someone who is alone, rather than someone who is with others. Someone who is resting and not on the move to the next thing. We may reach fewer people in a witnessing night, but those interactions are much deeper and meaningful. At the end of an evangelistic outreach, it’s the introverts who are going to have the cooler stories about the people they talked with.

A Typical Busy Time

For example, lets say I go to the Des Moines Farmers Market to share my faith. It’s super busy, and thousands of people there. An uncomfortable environment. As I walk through the crowds I immediately feel the weight of the atmosphere around me, and I am getting drained. I people-watch just trying to get through it all. What can I do to make this situation better for an introvert like me? First, I find that if I pull off to the side somewhere and put my back to most of the people, I can have a comfortable conversation despite the environment that I’m in. I try to pick the quietest place in the area, even though it may be noisier than usual. It helps me focus on just a few things in front of me, like a tree, a building, etc. Second, I choose a person who I feel would be the most comfortable to talk to. I choose someone who is sitting alone, not in a group, and someone who is sedentary and not on their way to somewhere else. Lastly, I am concerned how I may approach them. I think through some things I could say, tracts I can give them, but I have to be careful not to take too much time, and blow the opportunity. Maybe I spent time writing a tract and will present it to them at a more perfect time. When the conversation is done, if it was a good talk, it fires me up and excites me. If it’s not, I may feel even more drained than when I started, thinking too much on what was said, and analyzing it to the point I am worried about what I said or didn’t say.

Even though I am very introverted, it doesn’t stop me from trying new things and new ways of sharing my faith. I have open-air preached at least ten times in my life to thousands of people. I have shared Christ with a groups of teens, and even had heated debates with atheists and homosexuals. It’s important to at least try something new, and see what works. It’s part of finding ourselves and developing out own style of witnessing. This way us deep thinkers at the end of the night or a conversation can step back and analyze how things went and what we can do to improve for next time.

Once I took the test, I showed my findings to my wife. She was intrigued by the thought and agreed to take it herself. She did, and was amazed at what she found. These are not labels we give ourselves, but are how we can best understand each other. It guides the way I react to her and her to me.

But my point is that your personality style is not a blessing, nor a curse. It is yours. It is how God created you to be. He knew what He was doing when He formed your innermost parts before the foundation of the world. Use it to your advantage and hone in on those strengths for God’s glory. Just get out there and share your faith while you still can.

Pushing Through The Pins and Needles

This picture brings up a few good points. Though I don’t agree with it completely, it opens my eyes to the fact that when it comes to apathy, it’s not always the fault of the church leadership. It does matter that a person goes to a Bible-believing and teaching church. It does matter where the sheep get fed, and that we worship God in spirit and in truth. We need that good teaching and doctrine. But if the people are not moving, it’s not always the leadership that is the cause. Yes, many times the leadership frustrate evangelism efforts, but this frustration can come from stubborn church members.

Disheartened Pastor

I once sat down and had a great conversation with a pastor from a denomination I do not normally attend or fellowship with. He was young, vibrant, and had a heart to see God’s Kingdom grow and flourish. His desire was to be the best shepherd to his flock he can possibly be, and it showed. But his congregation didn’t want to move. They were perfectly content just attending church as long as it is less than an hour each Sunday. They had been apathetic for generations and in many ways they reached atrophy. Some pushed back the pastor’s every effort to advance the church while others were fearful to move forward for many different reasons. Most of them liked their space and were comfortable where they were at. He even said a guy told him, “We got a good thing here Pastor, don’t ruin it for us.” There were some, though very few, of their body that were excited about moving forward, and were ready to get to work.

Pins and Needles

When church members have been asleep for so long, some of the body of Christ are numb and have no feeling. It is written that the life is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11). When blood flow to different parts of the body is cut off or frustrated, those parts get numb, immobile, and useless. If it is a leg, you cannot walk; an arm, you cannot grab or hold. If not dealt with quickly, it can lead to many health problems, and at worse — amputation, where those parts are literally cut off from the rest of the body.

In other church members, the blood is starting to flow and the intense pain of pins and needles has started, but the body parts are afraid to move. You know that feeling when your leg is asleep and you are afraid to walk or even stand for that matter. The intense pain lasts minutes, and there is nothing you can do but ride it out. Same with church members and leadership that are waking up. It hurts. It’s painful. It can be scary. Things seem so uncertain. But it is necessary for it to happen. The good part is that in the waking up — it doesn’t last forever. It is for a moment.

Those other parts of the body that are ready. The needles are gone, and it’s time to get moving. You know the saying, “Poop of get off the pot.” These are the parts of the body that have rested long enough. The leadership and congregation see lights at the end of the pins and needles, the pain is gone. Time to get walking, there are things to get done.

The Parts No One Ever See – The Core

But, do you know what parts of the body never fall asleep? The core. The vital organs like the heart, liver, and brain. Everything from skin to organs in the torso never have pins and needles. Why? Because all the blood flows freely and never gets impeded. I encouraged that young pastor to focus on those who wanted to move and grow. I asked him to name just five people in his church that he could rely on, never complain, and do what you ask them to do without fail. “Focus on the core and in turn their lives and stories would impact those around them.” In time he began to see those who were asleep show signs of life and positive activity among the body. They were not only influential under their own roof, but the entire town as well.

Two Sides to Every Coin

There are two sides to every coin, and this is no different. Apathy in the church can come from two different sources: the leadership and/or the congregation. As Evangelists, we must encourage church leadership to take the helm and sail the ship into the uncharted waters of outreach, and also to encourage the parts of the body to start to move and feel the necessary pins and needles when the shepherd and leadership are ready to get out to do the work of the ministry.

Now That I am in leadership myself

A perpetual saying among evangelists is that we belong to, “Club Frustration.” Frustration is what we sometimes feel, but in every sense of the word it means to prevent (a plan or attempted action) from progressing, succeeding, or being fulfilled. This thwarting of the gospel can come from shepherds as well as the sheep — both sides of the coin.

For the past nineteen years I have been on the side of tails; maybe even “chasing my tail” so to speak. But now I have this unique opportunity to flip my coin and land on heads for a while. What does this mean for me in this new role of Church Elder? I get to experience what it is like being on the other side of the complaints I’ve had all those years. It means that I personally, must take that helm and lead the congregation into these uncharted waters. I must do the work of the office of Evangelist and equip the saints for the work of ministry and edify the entire body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11–16).

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