I understand how church leaders may feel during this time as we emerge cautiously from a pandemic and a world of chaos whilst still continuing to face social unrest and many other tiring issues.
Could Aslan be on the move?
We have an eye on the future – God is building His church and the devious machinations of the enemy will not prevail against it. We are at a place, much like Israel in the Old Testament, that prophetic word from Isaiah is booming loud and clear,
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Such a lavish promise, multifaceted and engaging, and the imperative, “Fear not!” is very good news indeed.
I think, amongst pastors, elders and those in the ministry there has been a lot of discouragement; some are overwhelmed due to a lack of vision or because around them has been an unusual unwillingness to serve or volunteer, and surprisingly, for some there has been a reluctance on the part of leaders to take leadership positions. Lethargy seems to have set in. People are tired. It’s not that they have lost or left their first love, but that enthusiastic, “Where now is the Lord God of Elijah?” battle cry has been set to the side. For just a little while.
Apparently, church attendance in the UK has declined from 6,484,300 to 3,081,500. There are lots of things you can muse about with those statistics, but I’m pretty certain, given a move of God that 3,402,800 stragglers can easily be drawn back to God – or more realistically, to a genuine regenerated relationship with Jesus Christ!
It’s worth stressing these issues are not the case globally, but I am making a generalisation. Sometimes, especially in the USA, people have a tendency to think everything in God’s plan is focused on them. But God is doing far more than that. He is at work in the hearts of people in China, Russia, Sudan – in fact, there is nowhere where God is not at work in His world. But it does seem here, that we are in advanced state of preparation for revival.
Lack of community?
Church leaders may also feel discouraged when it seems like there is a lack of community, especially when one is used to the great buzz of church life. It’s important to remember it is not a platitude but the truth; God is always with us and will help us through any situation. In recent years, social relationships and public worship have been disrupted significantly, and many people have experienced a depressing sense of loneliness. This can take a toll on anyone, especially on those who lead churches. Despite these challenges, it is important to remain strong in our faith and remember our community is built by God, and He is ever present with us – we just don’t always discern it. There are times when God hides His face; then pull us to go seek Him and find Him!
Leaders usually find encouragement from the relationships they have with church members and it’s encouraging for them to see the Church wholehearted, exuberant worship or to be able to deliver the Word of God to them. However, many of those activities curtailed or put on hold during the time of the pandemic and not yet fully reopened, which has set many pastors up for discouragement. Even so, things are improving.
An appeal for unity …
In some areas, Church leaders can find themselves discouraged by the division within the church, but this division is about practical issues such as masks, vaccines, and public health measures in relation to the pandemic, it takes wisdom to know how to proceed.
Additionally, with the current social unrest in our culture, there are different views on how to respond to racism and other pressing issues. It can be difficult to navigate all of these challenges, but it’s important to remember who we are – we are all part of the body of Christ complete with kingdom values and the gifts of the Spirit available to us. God will help us and give us wisdom as we intentionally come to Him.
Keep trusting the Lord – never give up looking for His intervention!
Perhaps for 2023 we need to be reminded about what the Lord said about the tribulations we will face in this world. He told us we can have peace in him because he has overcome the world.
This is a comfort to you particularly as you read this, knowing that no matter what challenges or difficulties you may face in your line of work, Christ has already conquered them. You are not alone in this, and you can trust that he will give you the strength to continue being faithful as you read, study and follow his Word.
During this trying season, Christians need to focus on the basic aspects of discipleship in order to keep going. It would be legalism to say that “of necessity we must pray and seek God, and that we must read God’s Word and we must share the gospel with everyone we can.” So I won’t, but you get the sense of urgency.
We need to recommit ourselves to the values that are important to our faith if we want to keep going strong and stay focused. We are going to face some serious challenges in 2023 but God is with us.
In the words of the Pentecostal revival in Revival with George Jeffries, “He is our great Saviour, Healer, Baptiser in the Holy Spirit and coming King.”