Don't give up, stick to the vision God gave you, and seek His presence
By Neil Smith
Everyone is sick and tired of hearing about how tough the past two years have
been. Covid-19, the economic slump, unhappy church members, load shedding,
the list is long. But as much as we may be tired of the tough-time-narrative, the
truth is that this challenging time has begun to take its toll on even the most
optimistic and hopeful church leaders.
As leaders in the local church, we have found our leadership tanks running on
empty. As people who are meant to be dealers in hope, it's been difficult to find
reasons to hope! You may have heard that many church leaders have decided to
step out of ministry during this season, and while that may be true in some places
more than others, the reality is that all spiritual leaders have probably thought
In this little message I have three simple little words of encouragement for you.
Number 1: Don't give up.
I imagine that you probably have a lot of reasons to feel justified in giving up right
now, but please don't do that. Now is not a time to give up. Now is a time to dig
deep, to dial up our trust in the Lord.
The bible says in Hebrews 5:8; that "Even though Jesus was God's son, he
learned obedience from the things he suffered."
When we go through tough times, we need to cling to God more than ever, not pull
away. I believe that even during this challenging time, God is moving, and God is
working in ways we may not understand.
Please don't give up on God. Please don't give up on ministry. Please don't give up
on the local church.
Number 2: Stick to the vision that God gave you.
When you can't trace the hand of God, sometimes you just need to trust his heart,
and stick with the last thing he told you to do!
I know that many of you have a vision that God has given you for your life, for your
church community, for the people God has placed you as a leader.
I clearly remember when I first drove into Sun Valley 22 years ago. As I drove over
Ou Kaapse Weg, and arrived at King of Kings, I felt the Lord give me this word from
"The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a
spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will
raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings."
I knew that God had spoken to me. I knew that he had given me a vision and a
heart for this valley, but during the hard times, it can be easy to doubt that. It can
be easy to forget the word of the Lord.
It times of accelerated change, it can be easy to doubt the vision that the Lord
gave you. Take heart. Stick to the vision that the Lord gave you.
Number 3: Seek his presence.
The one thing that keeps me steady when everything else in my world is shaky, is
being in His presence. This is so important for us as leaders, but also as churches.
I recently found the illustration by Will Mancini, in his book Future Church very
helpful. In this book he describes a church being like a house with two rooms. A
lower room, and an upper room.
This can be a helpful illustration to represent how people interact, get connected,
and stay connected to your church.
If you were to ask anyone from your church (or any church for that matter) the
question ‘why do you attend our church?’ The responses you would get would
generally fit into one of four categories all starting with the letter "P."
The first is People.
They have friends that attend the church or their kids have friends that attend the
church. So they end up sticking around because of the relationships they have
with the people there. They just want to spend time with their friends.
The second is Place.
They attend your church because of its physical location or the facility itself.
Maybe you have an incredible worship space or children’s venue. Or it’s simply
because they don’t want to drive across town to another place. It’s the location
itself. Don’t think people get connected to Place? Just bring up relocation at the
next leadership meeting. You’ll find out pretty quickly that place matters.
The third is Programs.
People attend your church for the programs you offer. Maybe it’s Alpha or a
Boundaries course. Maybe you have an incredible worship service or some midweek
Bible study. Whatever it is, people are connected to “IT” and attend your
church because of whatever “IT” is.
The fourth is Personality.
People are attracted and stay because of a particular leader in your church, often
the Lead Pastor or staff member. They like you. They like how you lead or how you
teach, the passion that you have, or what you’ve personally done for them and
their family. They’re connected to a leader.
Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with any one of these things. You want your
people to have a connection with one another and feel known when they walk in
your door. You want your environment to be welcoming, inviting, and in a great
location. And you desire deeply to offer great programs for people to grow deeper
and be equipped. And you even want people to enjoy being around you and your
staff. To feel loved and cared for.
But what’s The problem?
The problem lies in that people tend to only stay connected to these four things.
And that’s a problem because each of one them can change at any moment.
Your meeting location can change, especially starting as a church plant where
you’re renting space. If someone has a friend who attends your church and all of a
sudden, they quit going or relocate, they’ll end up leaving too. What do you think
happens when you cut a certain ministry or program or life group? If someone
came to your church because of it and was connected only to that, they’ll most
likely go somewhere that has what they want.
And lastly, you see waves of attendance fluctuate simply because of who is leading their ministry. What happens if the lead pastor takes a long sabbatical? Or if your staff changes?
People get connected to their leaders. Change is not welcome.
Everyone who attends your church will have to start in the Lower Room. They
come in through the front door into the Lower Room. You can have a great
location, great people, awesome programs, and incredible leaders, but people will
come and go as they change. Your job as a leader is to get your people connected
to something much deeper. To move them into the Upper Room. To move them to
Seeking God's Presence.
Seek His Presence!
In Acts 2:1-4 it reminds us of this upper room moment in God's presence;
“On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place.
Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm,
and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or
tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was
filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit
gave them this ability.”
This is for you and me. The experience of the day of Pentecost is not just a historic
event; it can become a present reality for you (2:29). As Joel prophesied: ‘I will
pour out my Spirit on all’ – men and women, old and young, rich and poor (vv.17–
21). That definitely includes you and me!
I trust that you will be reminded today - that God loves you. That he has a plan for
you. Don't give up. Stick to the vision God gave you, and Seek his Presence!