We all know that ministry moves in seasons. Growth. Recession. Outreach. Rest.
Usually those seasons have well-defined beginning and end points. And you can see the end of it, most of the time, even if it’s buried in layers and layers of work, heartache, and pain.
Take a step back from the season we’re current in, however. We’ve seen great things happening in churches, changes that we all knew should be happening.
Changes to the way we do ministerial work in Church Online.
Changes to the way people perceive the mission and vision of the church as a whole.
It’s been encouraging to see so many people looking to the online medium as not just a “mission field” (not just sending “digital missionaries” into the “brave new world” of digital-ness), but as a legitimate entity for full funding and staffing in our churches.
But how much of that is ACTUAL change? How much of it is our own busy-ness trying to fill the gaps?
And when does this season actually end?
As church leaders, we’re all acutely aware of the saying, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.” It’s why so many of us ruthlessly eliminate things like free time, family time, and rest time. We innately know (or think we know) that we’re supposed to always be creating, always be striving, always be pushing, always be BEING. Always pushing buttons to make sure that God is glorified.
And the more we work, the more we’re supposed to see Jesus. The more we’re supposed to watch the Spirit at work.
But if you’re like me (and chances are good that you are), you may have reached a plateau in terms of your “seeing.” Jesus, it seems, has left you alone for a little bit. And the Holy Spirit seems to have left you a bit in the dark.
You’ve been pushing buttons and feeling like you’re dying, slowly but surely.
Church leader, I ask you:
Does it feel like Jesus has just NOT shown up in this season of ministry?
Does it feel like you’re just pushing buttons over and over, watching numbers go down (in many cases), feeling helpless?
Does it feel like this season is just bringing despair?
Let me point you to one of my favorite passages in the Bible: John 11.
Yes, the famous John 11. The one where Jesus weeps.
If you read the story, in context, a friend of Jesus dies, Lazarus. And when He hears of it, He states that, “It is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it,” in verse 4.
And, of course, He goes running off to the village to heal Lazarus, right? He shows up immediately to save the day with a big S on His chest?
No. He stays away. For 2 more days.
Wait. What? It says right there in the text that Jesus “loves” Lazarus and his crew.
But...He stays for 2 more days?! And only THEN does He come and raise Lazarus back to life?
That’s not love!
This passage is used often in pastor-dom, as an illustration on how much He hates sin and death, to how He was truly trying to show His mastery over death by letting Lazarus lay dead for 4 days instead of 3, and on and on.
The point I’m drawing from this one?
Jesus knows our season. He knows that it feels like we’re wrapped in a season that’s never going to end.
And maybe He’s staying away, allowing you to push buttons and become more and more tired, because He’s waiting to say the same thing He said to Lazarus:
Come out of the old, cold, and dead.
Come out of the grave of where you were living before.
Come out of the tomb full of old ideas, old constructs...old life.
Come into new life.
Maybe God is using this time of renewed church engagement to break apart social media algorithms and flood the Internet with messages of hope, Christ, and love.
Maybe Jesus is waiting for the grave clothes to truly be wrapped around us so that we better appreciate the churches we are a part of now...and so that we can truly appreciate the next steps we will take as Gospel carriers with that church.
Maybe the Holy Spirit is going to show up in a mighty way and empower our efforts as ministers of His Gospel with renewed vigor and vision.
Maybe our loving and gracious Father is spending an extra 2 days away from us in this season so that, when He says, “Come out,” our new ministries look radically different.
This season you’re in right now may seem interminable, but trust me (and trust Lazarus), Jesus will call time on this at some point, and we’ll be able to look back at the old linen strips we were wrapped in and realize that we were truly trapped in an old season.
I’m praying for you and your ministry today, church leader. This season will end, eventually, and we’ll be better for it.
In the meantime?
Keep on pushing those buttons.