After 3 years of leading a ministry, my wife and I handed off the work to the next group of leaders who would carry it on. We had a huge sense of fulfillment watching God heal so many lives, and we had had a front row seat. People who came to the group broken and lost experienced their families restored, addictions recovered from, careers and commitments reaffirmed, and all in community together. We prayed, learned, listened, loved, hoped, grieved and celebrated so much as a family of Jesus followers. Then that season of ministry was finished. A huge hole opened up in our lives.
There hadn’t been time to reach out around the church-house to other small-groups, so after 3 years we didn’t have anything like what most people experience in their church community. It almost felt like we had to join the church all over again. We weren’t connected like we hungered to be. It made us confused and disconnected.
One major reason we handed the ministry work off was physical disability. I simply could no longer take the physical strain setting up, standing and teaching, the huge counseling session load of a recovery ministry and the lack of recovery time. I was so exhausted and beat up that I would talk myself out of getting to Sunday service, justifying that I had just done a 3-hour service on Friday evening. Almost a year later we still have not returned to regular Sunday attendance and there is a hole in our lives.
I’m reminded of Christ’s instruction from Matthew 18 that enumerates many reasons and scenarios that emphasize the importance of community. It’s where the well-worn line “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” comes from in verse 20. Literally, to be in community with a group of Christ-followers and about His business is to be spiritually present with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is but one supernatural power, and our power comes only from that one source. I’m learning hard lessons in living in a relationship that has ebbed from its power-source.
God is always with us and in us from the moment we accept salvation in and through Jesus Christ. But, just because we are in Him and He in us doesn’t mean we are enjoying the fruits of a vibrant relationship with Him. In community there was fellowship and experiencing life together with God’s family. My wife and I were constantly charged up from the regular drain of applying our faith in the 21st century when we were in community. We are still experiencing a fair amount of the drain and strain of life and ministry, but without the recharge.
I’m still counseling and doing hospital and home visitation as I can, but I’m also still quite disabled and I’m not going to push myself into a strain. My ministry work is greatly curtailed but I still have to be careful on physical issues. A great lesson I’ve learned is that life and ministry is constantly draining on a spiritual level. My wife and I will soon find a time and place to get into regular community with the believers we’re called to serve. We’re still praying and talking about that. We definitely feel the strain of being away from the power-source that comes from actively participating in a community of His people.
I thought it would be worthwhile to share my perspective as a preacher who is in-between ministries. Church can appear to be an ‘us-and-them’ relationship between leaders and their congregations. In truth, the only difference between us and them is which direction our chairs a pointing.
I’d love to hear your experiences of being in and out of fellowship, or your perception of church leaders and their rolls and relationships in your community. Please feel free to leave comments below, and thanks for reading.