Lasting in Urban Ministry – Part 4
If you are going to last in urban ministry, you need to ask yourself four questions on a regular basis. I shared the first two questions in part 3, today I want to share with you the third question.
How are you doing in regard to the pursuit of your calling? Do you feel as if you are making progress, do you have people around you that affirm you, encourage you and give you guidance as it relates to you discovering and living out your life calling? Do you even know what your calling is?
Have you ever felt that when it comes to living out your calling that you take two steps forward only to take three steps back? That is kind of how I have felt for the first couple of years on our LA church plants as well. I have discovered that often the most difficult years of a new church plant are the first five years. Did you know that over 70% of churches that get started fail before the fifth year? I have known a number of church plants in Hollywood that have started around the time we did or after that no longer exist. Now statistically speaking, if a church can make it past the five-year mark with a sense of destiny and purpose, then there is a good chance that she will be a church that makes a difference in the neighborhood and the world. It has been great to get past that point and start a couple of other churches as well.
One of the important factors in a person or church to finish well is having a sense of perspective, right? That is one of the reasons for working out a timeline of your life. You guys remember the life of Joseph, don’t you? We have talked about him quite a bit over the last couple of months. But what if we put his life on a timeline? Isn’t he the classical example of a person who takes two steps forward only to find that within a short period of time he has taken three steps back? What helped him to have the faith to keep on going? What allowed him to have the attitude to say, “Obstacles are just opportunities?” One of the things is that his faith gave him a broad perspective.
Joseph is not the only person in history to have such an attitude. Thomas Edison, when a boy, received a blow on his ear that impaired his hearing. But later he believed his deafness was a blessing, for it was the means by which he was saved from distractions. This allowed him to concentrate on his work, and out of that concentration emerged some of the greatest inventions of all time.
Victor Hugo, a literary genius of France, was exiled from his country by Napoleon. But out of that period of exile arose some of his most creative works. When he later returned home in triumph, he asked, “Why was I not exiled earlier?”
Helen Keller, born blind and deaf, faced obstacle after obstacle in her life. However, on more than one occasion she confided, “I thank God for my obstacles, for through them I have found myself, my work and my God.”
George Fredrick Handel was at a low point in his life. His money was gone and his creditors hounded him, threatening him with imprisonment. His right side became paralyzed and his health deteriorated. For a brief time he was tempted to give up. In the midst of the darkness he persevered by doing the only thing he knew how to do – write music. And out of that despair he wrote the oratorio known as Messiah – which as you know has become a classic.
Next week we will look at the fourth question we need to ask yourselves regularly as we continue the series on Lasting in Urban Ministry.