As of this month I have been ministering for 30 years. I started working in small groups 3 decades ago as a freshman at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Who would have ever thought that I would have ended up in a church of small groups. I guess it is obvious now, but it wasn’t then.As I look back at that young man of 18, I remember myself as very zealous, passionate, arrogant, smart, no experience and not realizing it.
As I think about those 30 years my biggest regret has been seeing how many people have stopped ministering for God that once did. Many of these were my friends. Most have not lost their personal relationship with Him, they just stopped reaching out to others in ministry. The percentage of people that have done this is higher than I want to admit.
As a leader I regularly think about this. I want to know how to lower the percentage that drops out of the race. In their daily walk most don’t leave God, but they never make it to their destiny either.
The reasons that people say they pull away are as varied as the number of people. But surely there has to be some root cause underneath the reasons? I want to propose to you what may be the root. As the presumptuous man of 18 I once was, I feel that I am even more presumptuous at 48. But here are my thoughts…
I think the root cause is death. Yes, death – or the lack there of to be more precise. There is a paradox in the Christian life that I do not understand. On one side you have God promising blessings and giving you prophecies. On the other side, God tells you that the way up is down, the way to leadership is servant hood, and the way to heaven is through the death of the cross and I am to take up mine daily.
Death is simply inconvenient. I don’t like dying. It is not fun and I see little benefit in it. Let me share with you 3 deaths I have noticed all great men must pass through. Deaths that are very inconvenient.
I am a bucket of appetites. I want to eat, have fun, be fulfilled, look good, and a thousand other cravings all of the time. Many times these appetites take control and God loses out. I don’t like dying to them. Frankly, it gets old killing my self all of the time. I feel like a bucket with a thousand dagger holes in it. I know this is discipleship 101 but death to appetites is so inconvenient.
The second is dying to a vision God gave me! This seems so unfair. As we grown God gives us a vision of our destiny and purpose. This is exciting – for a while. Then He comes and wants it back! This is truly strange by my human understanding.
For example, God promised Abraham a son and a great nation through him. As an old man, Abraham finally gets his promised son. Then guess what? God wants the son back! He asks Abraham to kill the son that He gave him! God is very strange. But I have personally seen no exceptions to this process. God always asks back what He gave you. “God gave me the promise, why is He taking it back”, you ask? I will leave that to you to figure out, but it always happens. Many people won’t give God His vision for us back. This is so inconvenient.
After all of this, I must die a third time to getting offended at God. Doesn’t it make sense to get made at God? As a human it does. My appetites, which I didn’t ask for, are raging. I then follow God and He makes a promise that looks like He is going back on. Why shouldn’t I be offended? He definitely doesn’t make much sense. “Normal” people don’t do this. I still love God, but I am mad at Him. My mind is reeling. Death to offense is much more painful than I ever imagined. It is gory and traumatic. It messes up my plans, emotions, and goals.
I guess it all comes down to submission – with a good attitude. I know this is a morbid subject…but the people that I admire the most are the deadest. May we continue to walk as dead people – and become the most alive at the same time. You go figure it out…I can’t. Death is so inconvenient.