It Was Empty!
Today… It finally happened. July 2, 2014 is the date I’ll remember for awhile.
I was looking forward to a Bible study with friends (ages 60+). I’m 26 so I cherish the moments where I get to share the Gospel with others who are older than me. I learn more than I teach normally. Facilitating for others a safe place where they can learn and share honestly and experience intimacy with Jesus brings me such joy!
For this gathering I prayed about what to share with the group. A friend shared a study with me that he had done with his “Senior” group at Harvester Christian Church that looked at the books of 1, 2 & 3 John. PERFECT! I prepared a handout with a few exercises from Scripture to guide our discussion and prayer. I reserved the room where we would meet. Most importantly I chatted with Jesus about who would attend and their hearts be opened.
The time came this morning to gather with my friends at the feet of Jesus and get our “feet washed”! Everything was ready. Handouts printed. Check. Me prepared. Check (I think). Coffee made. Check. I prayed while I waited for people to arrive. I waited. 9:30am came and went by. Then 9:35am. Then 9:40am. I kept waiting.
No one came! I was by myself.
It can be lonely at times to be a ministry leader.
The Disappointments of Leadership
Have you ever experienced a disappointment like that? I’m sure the pastors who I work with have. I’m sure the other Christ-followers who I minister with have. You probably have too.
Maybe it was an open house to help sell your home or even a party. You schedule the event and set aside time to prepare it. You cleaned your home or room to make it nice. But no one showed up.
Maybe it was like me. Maybe it was a Bible study group, class, or meeting. You were the only one there!
To be honest, I am discouraged. I wouldn’t say depressed though. I do feel a little insignificant. I feel a little impatient, frustrated, and sad that people who said they would show up but didn’t.
I’ve felt sorry for myself long enough already. (pity me).
Over the three years I’ve been in ministry, I’ve talked with other pastors or ministry leaders from all over the world and they’ve shared similar experiences with me.
Self-Pity to Appreciating Jesus
Today I don’t question what God has called me to do or my capacity with his help to carry that out.
I’ve learned that when nobody shows up for the group I planned it’s not about me- it’s about them and their schedules, their stress, their hesitation.
Jesus experienced disappointment. Time and time again he gave all he had to people. He was criticized, rejected, abandoned. Nobody- not one single person truly understood what he gave his life to, why he came to earth, and why he suffered on the cross. His family and friends didn’t even understand what he was all about until after he died and rose from the dead.
Why do I think things should go better for me? Why do I think people shouldn’t disappoint me?
Intimacy with Jesus
It’s when I really look at the big picture I understand I wasn’t alone. When my focus is on Jesus, and his life laid out in front of me in the Gospels, his presence with me, I realize I’m not alone!
When I am disappointed by people or circumstances, I have been learning (very slowly) that I must focus on one thing that really matters and that nobody can take that away from me: “the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Truly, with Paul, “I want to know Christ… and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings… and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:8, 10-11).
In whatever trial I may face, whether it big or small, I must consider prayerfully how Jesus experienced difficulty so that my faith can be refined and purified. That is where I will find my intimacy with Jesus. Jesus teaches me if I rely on his grace I can become more like him, more loving toward God and others no matter how hurt or unfair my circumstances are.
It’s Not About The Numbers
In ministry and in all kinds of event planning organizations we leaders focus too much on numbers. We try too hard to market and advertise to push people to come to our events. Our big concerns are normally the circumstances that we can’t control. We have problems with ambition and control.
I once read this quote about retreats and other gatherings: “Don’t worry about the numbers of people who come, focus on Christ in your midst. If God is not there it’s not a big meeting. But if God is there it’s HUGE!”
For me, it’s okay if nobody shows up. Jesus showed up and he is all I/we need!