I had only been in full-time ministry for four months when I attended a conference in Atlanta with friends. One of the first speakers preached a sermon that fueled my ministry in those early years.
God had used him to transform a dying church into a vibrant community of belief that was, and still is, on the cutting edge. But, it wasn’t an easy process. He described the period of time at which he and his leadership team were at the lowest of lows. The vision they had been communicating had fallen flat. Many of the people they were attempting to love and bring along with them were leaving. They had experienced several other gut blows that left them gasping for air and wondering if God was done with the church they were so desperately trying to bring back to life.
He spoke of his ministry as heart surgery. He framed himself as the surgeon and the church as the patient. I remember him saying, “I decided that I would either save the patient or I would die in the operation!”
His passion, and that sticky metaphor, have remained in my heart and mind for the past 15 years.
Fighting for the heart of the church
It’s not always easy.
The other day, I met with a friend who has suffered a huge amount of hurt during his time serving in ministry. Things have been so painful that he’s no longer serving in the church. It has gotten to the point at which he’d rather mow the lawn on Sunday; it’s just too difficult to go there for him and his family.
My heart goes out to him.
The church is far from perfect. Sometimes people get hurt, overlooked, moved to the margins, or forgotten. It’s regrettable. Many times, it’s avoidable. But, the fact remains, there is no perfect church and sinful people, as they’re prone to do, will sometimes disappoint.
The church needs leaders who know all about her blemishes—leaders who might have even been hurt by her in the past—to determine to remain in the operation, to keep fighting for the heart of the church. The church needs brave, godly, committed men and women who refuse to get caught up in petty problems, turf wars, and politics so they can focus on fighting for things that matter: bringing lost souls to Christ, nurturing young believers in the faith, preaching and teaching God’s truth, binding up the hurting, restoring the broken, and transforming communities. It’s not always going to be easy. But, it’s necessary.
Isn’t she worth fighting for?
As I talked with my friend, I reflected upon some of the difficulties I’ve experienced in the church. I’ll admit, there have been times where it was tempting—and would have been easy—to walk away. I’ve considered it seriously. But, by God’s grace, he keeps drawing me back, reminding me how much he loves the church, and encouraging me to keep going.
She may not be perfect. But, she is still worth fighting for.
I’m either going to save the patient or I’ll die in the operation!
What about you?
Are you fighting for the heart of the church? Have you given up? What keeps you committed? I’d love to hear from you.