Following the presentation of a comprehensive report to a Christian organization, the presiding officer asked me to lead in prayer. My mind was flooded with how to digest the enormous report we just heard in a board setting, and how do we make a faith response.
I knew that the organization’s response to the report would make a change in the trajectory of the organization for generations to come. I also knew that parts of the report were simply unhealthy for those we served.
I do not make it a practice to pray publicly to instruct an audience of men and women, and I wasn’t about to start now. I believe as followers of Christ we are to pray to appeal to an audience of one, the Most Holy One.
Because of the report, I was prompted to pray, “Lord, receiving this report is a bit like getting hold of a snake by the tail.” Doesn’t sound very complimentary to those making the report.
Living the faith life is no small task in the context of leadership with a Christian organization. Organizations, especially Christian organizations, are the way great things, multigenerational things, are accomplished. There is a real temptation to simply grind away with the organizational machinery. Our flesh may find that comfortable, but that is not the proper perspective. The faith walk requires us more often than not to push back on the status quo and to lean into the heart of God.
Steps of faith require saturation with the Word, wisdom, discernment, fasting, balance and passion. Building on the shoulders of those before us, the work of God through an organization is both now and beyond the current generation. Consequently, the potential harvest and the unintended consequences of any action are huge.
In the early chapters of Exodus, take a fresh look at the call of Moses at the burning bush. In an exchange with God, Moses is told to throw his trusted “rod” to the ground. While it was in Moses’ hand, this rod was his security and protection. When it was on the ground, it became a serpent. Moses was thoroughly acquainted with the ramifications of a serpent strike.
When God told him to pick it up by the tail, you can hear the mental machinery in Moses’s brain come to an abrupt stop. “You want me to do what?” You know the rest of the Exodus story: how Moses did what he was told, and the rod was transformed into an instrument of demonstrative divine power.
In the journey of faith, there are times God requires us to cast down things that we perceive to be secure so that He can do something greater than we could ever imagine. The faith life always requires individuals to take whatever we have in our hands, release the ownership of our lives, gifts, strengths, stuff and listen as the Lord directs.
Do Christian organizations work the same way as individuals? To a certain extent, “Yes!” The difference is that you have the collaboration of the heroes and policy makers of the past, the organizational staff, and the individual board members. The goal is that they all work together under the leadership of the Holy Spirit to respond by faith to a particular issue.
It works in a similar way in the local church. God’s people want to walk by faith and make purposeful advances to glorify the Lord in each generation. While the flesh of individuals can trash a faith response to an important step, it’s also the faith of the people of God that provides the Holy Spirit with energized vessels for fulfilling the mission that God wants to accomplish at a moment in history.
Much easier said than done. Too often organizations and churches are more concerned about the next parliamentary move, or an aberrant caucus flexing its populous muscle, or whether a proposed policy is worded in such a way to satisfy the originators.
Here’s what I know: God commands men of faith to join Him, not the reverse. Spiritually responsible people scoff at the idea of designing some kind of a plan and then asking God to bless it. Bless it? Who are we to think our thoughts are comparable or even compatible with His? We need to begin on our knees with anxious thoughts for a word from God before we begin to tackle some of the issues raging with our ministry and mission enterprises.
Such action doesn’t mean that when we pray about something, we are then somehow exempt from the heavy lifting of organizational deliberation. However, we need to retune our hearts and minds to His perspective. That is a more profitable exercise than attempting to ask God to join us with what we determined to do or where we want to go. At the end of the day, it is His purposes not ours that matter.
So, when your church is grappling with a tough issue, or you as an individual are taking a new step of faith, I suggest four prayerful steps:
- Grasp the illogical for the sake of obedience but don’t throw the responsible under the bus;
- Hold on to the lesser, more active end by faith in the Lord, who has chosen to reveal Himself through His Word;
- Increase faith by facing your fears, and choose to trust the Lord with your life and loves for the long haul;
- Join the Lord in the extraordinary journey of faith that probably won’t be a straight line, but a series of curves and valleys, rapids and mountains.
Above all else, trust the Lord, for He can be trusted with your life, your church and your organization.