I have been in the church business for 40+ years. I have had a variety of experiences (denominational work, independent work, networking, trans-local ministry) and ministered in numerous locations, cultures, and nations. I have taken over churches from others, planted churches, and consulted as an outside advisor to still others. I have learned a lot and forgotten little. A lot of my learning experiences have contained painful moments that one never forgets. There have been joyful times of victory and comradrie as well. Overall, it has been hard work with long hours and many times with little to no salary to live on. But it has been God – well, most of it has been.
I am currently just entering into another stage of my life and ministry. I have just been involved in closing down a church I planted and one that I have worked with for 33 years and 3 weeks. It is finished, closed, dead, buried and there will be no resurrection. It had some life on occasion. It was growing in numbers slowly. It had great worship and terrific teaching. But, the vast majority of people simply didn’t care. Didn’t care about the church. Didn’t care for or about others as it was mostly and often always about them. Didn’t give much thought or prayer to the lost. Didn’t listen to the hearts of others as they were too busy talking about themselves and others – one leading to sheer boredom the other to gossip. And, they did not tithe … even some of the leaders didn’t tithe. And, generally, the people attending spent more on the speciality coffees they drank – coffees from Starbucks, MacDonald’s, Tim Horton’s and numerous other places where you could spend $4.00+ on a cup of coffee then they gave to the church. Even the Keurig coffee machine at home had more spent on it monthly then was given to the church by some.
So, after working to rescue it numerous times and move it forward into the planned future God had for it, it is now closed. Some say I closed it. I did not! I just nailed the coffin shut but others were really responsible for it death. And it is dead and gone forever.
Sometimes we can have something that is good but not have the best. So, we need to prune it. Many times I cut good roses and great branches off the rose bushes so that the best buds can bloom. Good needs to be pruned so the best can be seen. Some really good people are now without a church home. Sometimes we need to end things because they are sick and not getting well. So, you cut your loses (of time and effort and increasing debt) and dismount because the horse is dead or soon will be. And thirdly, sometimes we just need to cut out the deadwood as it is simply taking up space and preventing true life from springing forth.
There were several aspects of the church and a few people that were good – and they were pruned. Hopefully they will bloom again somewhere and at some time and become the “best” for Jesus. There was much that was simply cultural Christianity and people who said they were believers and lived in such a way to totally disprove their declaration of faith. You might call them Christian athiests. They are sick and currently are not getting well. Maybe somewhere else they can one day be planted and have the life they have apparently been missing. And, there was much dead wood that simply needed to be chopped and removed. Only God knows what His plan for them is. The game just needed to end as there never would be a winner.
So I move on to a new season. I now have 40 to 50 hours a week free to focus on other ministry that I have been involved in part-time for a number of years. I can focus more specifically on the current apostolic call on my life and potentially make a living doing so. There is no financial risk involved as there has been no salary for the last nine months. A new adventure, new things to learn, new places to go, new ways to build, new nations opening up (Peru, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Burundai [Africa], and the United States), new skills to master, new relationships to build, and a new understanding of my future to grab hold of. And, I know, good fruit will come from all of this and already is.
Maybe even more time to focus on my wriitng ministry so as to fulfill several prophetic words spoken over my life. Maybe…