I’ve written a few blogs that I hope to post over the course of the next couple of months. I wrote most of them just before lockdown and have waited to share them until things calmed down a bit (laughs to self). Here’s the first, an introduction to my dear friend, Fleenor. He’ll make several appearances in posts to come.
“It is not good for man to be alone.”
How well I know this truth. Ministry can be a lonely place.
Indeed, it has often been a lonely place for me.
When God calls us into ministry, placing a burden on our shoulders, it’s difficult for others to understand.
My wife, Rachel, who’s a fabulous storyteller, encouraged me to find a way to share the stories of my life of ministry to the poor. So a few years ago I started blogging, hoping to help my brothers and sisters in Christ understand what God was doing amongst the needy. There was an encouraging response from friends and family, even some cool conversations with other urban ministers.
Apart from the blog, I sent a weekly email to those volunteering beside me. The email was usually short and included two key elements: a prayer request for an individual in the neighborhood, and a short story detailing the ways God was beginning to work in a neighbor’s life. Often, the story was a former prayer request that had been answered.
My friend Fleenor (really, just a buddy at the time) would call me two minutes after I hit “send” on each of those emails. The conversations were long. In fact, we probably talked on the phone two hours a day, every day, for over a year.
God had been showing Fleenor something as well – placing a calling and burden on his heart. As it turned out, it was the same burden God had given me. Suddenly, there was a friend to help shoulder the load.
And he was helping me see the larger kingdom scope of the work to which God had called us.
When I quit my secure church job and started Nomad Church Collective, Fleenor joined me.
For real, he quit his job and joined me in the work.
That was three and a half years ago
In these years, God has displayed his faithfulness in providing everything we need to accomplish his work. He’s provided office space, a community gathering place, faithful partners, relationships with other organizations, growing relationships with our neighbors, and he has never failed to provide for our families along the way.
I still have trouble believing that I get to participate in God’s kingdom story like this. The whole adventure feels miraculous and ordinary at the same time. Miraculous because God always provides what we need, when we need it. Ordinary because, somehow, the journey feels like what being a child of God is supposed to feel like. A life of dependence and trust.
God is faithful.
That has been the foundation of all the work we do.
A major temptation in ministry (as I’ve written about before, I think) is the temptation to snatch the reins from Jesus and implement our own strategies and ideas.
When a minister is alone, it’s so easy to live in the proverbial echo chamber. The voice we hear speaking to us is really our own, but we assume it’s Jesus. After all, Jesus is supportive and encouraging and wants me to be happy and have fun in ministry, right?
But walking with a brother (as Jesus directed) makes all the difference. If I start scheming and strategizing in my own power, my ideas don’t bounce of the wall and back into my own head. Instead, they are intercepted by Fleenor, my brother who is faithfully pursuing the ways of the Holy Spirit.
“Brother, that’s not what the Spirit is showing me,” has become a common phrase we exchange with one another.
Sometimes, we are in total agreement and, upon seeking the Lord in prayer, realize God wasn’t in it, or more commonly, that God is telling us to wait on his timing.
Praying. Waiting. Testing ideas.
These are practices that can make ministers feel unproductive.
And it’s when ministers feel unproductive that insecurity prompts us to try and take charge.
Fleenor has had to remind me, several times, of the truth of the gospel – how my identity is grounded in Christ. How Jesus loves me, and saved me before I accomplished anything for the kingdom.
If God has called you into ministry, in any capacity, remember, it is not good to go it alone.
Pray for a brother or sister to come beside you. Pray that your heart will be open to receive the friendship and love of that person, as well as their challenge and criticism.
And then wait.
For we have tasted and seen that God is faithful.