My joy of the kingdom right now is off the charts. It cannot be measured by humanity's weak calculation. Church is fun. The Kingdom is productive. The future is bright. The present is rich.
Getting to this stage carries a deep and dark secret most important to every minister; whether paid or volunteer.
Hell's role in our service must not be ignored. It is the testing grounds for oh so many. My first twelve to fifteen years at Memorial were riddled with rugged days. It was so bad I most likely can't really recall the depth of the pain. (Let me insert that there is no leader among us without sinful lack and flaw. Therefore, I do not assume I was exempt from such a fitting label.) However, the first decade plus was full of daily pain. We had a hand full of elders who were law-driven and control-oriented in their demeanor. The Word says the law kills. Memorial lived in killing fields. I could see it. But I didn't know if I could survive it.
At one point the deacons rose up and asked the elders to step down en mass. Those of humble hearts did. The others tried to wage war with the threat of taking me out with them. It was a time of dark and depressing days. Two more stabs at adding elders proved to deliver more of the same. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot by putting men in to lead who had a hankering for control. My days were miserable. I didn't know if I could survive.
About the last three sets of elders have been rewards for the church's endurance. It's a glory to be a part of such a happy and productive congregation these last fifteen to eighteen years. And, we are just getting started.
For the young leaders who catch this blog, I must insist you take a look at your work and realize you've most likely got Hell coming. Don't flinch. Don't quit. Don't be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you as if some strange thing were happening. Don't assume you'll die. Moses spent forty years in exile with little hope of hearing from God again. His hellish and lonely endurance built him into the leader we now know he became. Joseph spent time in an abandoned hell-hole. That was his beginning. Before it was over, he enjoyed the pleasures of leading a huge nation.
I am convinced each of us must go through times of severe testing. Will we quit? Will we give up? We will surely be tempted. But, we can't stop. When you take a look at Jesus he no more than completed the torture before and during the cross than he found himself roaming the corridors of hell frantically setting the captives free.
In my early years here I felt the church was being held hostage and someone had to try to set it free. I cried and worried myself sick trying to learn how to dodge the painful flaming missiles of legalism. Get it; a disciple in the twenty-first century still pays the price for faith in the Life-Giving Savior. There is no other route by which one can learn to minister.
Don't quit. Don't read the harsh meetings where you are creamed once again as God abandoning you. He's grooming you to endure the tough stuff. You will live. You'll not barely live. You'll really live because He will see you through to the land of productivity and joy. Hold on.