“San Francisco is too far gone. Why bother?”
“You can’t have an effective ministry through that kind of church.”
“You’ll never raise the money you need to make it in San Francisco.”
“Your plans don’t seem to be very well thought out. [insert random church leader or scholar] says [insert random quote]. You should listen to them instead.”
“You shouldn’t plant a campus ministry through an existing church. It will never work.”
I was talking to a minister friend on the phone the other day about a new work he’s starting, and when we got into the nuts and bolts of what he plans to do with it I raised a couple of objections concerning his methodology in an attempt to help him in planning. He thought for a moment then gave his thoughts as to why he was going to do what he’d originally said in spite of my objections. When I reitterated that that’s not the way I would do it, apparently I struck a nerve. I’ll never forget what he said: “Wes, I appreciate it, but my ministry isn’t here to make you happy.”
“My ministry isn’t here to make you happy.” Ha!
I like that response, and I like that he said that right to my face. I admit I got a little red in the cheeks for a second, but then I realized his attitude is just right.
I have a tendency to get a bit too caught up in the people pleasing business at times. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to please people, only that focusing too heavily on pleasing people can get in the way of doing what God is calling you to do.
Had I allowed myself to take seriously everything that has been said to me over the past three years regarding the work in SF, I can assure you I wouldn’t be going, and I can assure you that my buddies that are already there wouldn’t be.
I had a flat on the way to the office today, and as I was changing the tire I began thinking about the Old Testament book of Joshua Airiel and I just got done reading (we read the Bible together most nights before bed). I thought about God’s ability to do the impossible – especially when His people are involved.
In Joshua 3 God allowed the Israelites to cross the Jordan River by causing it to miraculously stop flowing when the priests carrying the ark set foot in the water. In Joshua 6, God commanded the Israelites to march around Jericho once a day for six days, then seven times on the seventh day followed by the blowing of their trumpets and shouting. The walls fell, Israel invaded the city and they were victorious. In Joshua 10 when the Amorite kings fought Israel at Gibeon, God made the sun stand still in the sky so that the Israelites would have light by which to strike their enemies down. In addition to that, God hurled large hailstones upon Amorites from the sky, and the Bible says in verse 11 “more of them [the Amorites] died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.” When the dust settled and the five Amorite kings were captured, it says (starting in verse 24):
“When they had brought these kings to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, “Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.” So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks. Joshua said to them, Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.”
In the book of Joshua, that’s exactly what He did. The rest of the book of Joshua (24 chapters) is an account of the Israelites winning dominating battles and divvying up the land they conquered. This ragtag nation of former slaves routed the mighty warriors of the land of Canaan. Through Israel God did the impossible, and that’s just the book of Joshua!
Stories of God doing the impossible, or, rather, what men claim is impossible, are found throughout Scripture. Abraham and Sarah shouldn’t have had a child – Sarah was much too old and said as much. But what happened? What about the stories surrounding Moses? The burning bush that spoke, the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the cloud and the pillar of fire, the bread from heaven, the water from the rock. Honestly, did anyone see that coming?
What about Samson and his strength, David and his mighty men, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace, and Daniel in the lion’s den? And what about the greatest story of all – that of Jesus Christ? A virgin has a baby, the blind see, the lame walk, and the dead rise again. Simply impossible, but the impossible happened again and again, and I’ve got news for you: God isn’t through.
In light of the fact that the impossible is possible with God, the naysaying, whining, and fear all seems very small.
My response to naysayers:
1) My wife and I are going to San Francisco because God has called us there. It’s an act of obedience more than our own planning. 2) We are doing our best to listen to others, learn from their wisdom, and will continue to do so, but just because we listen doesn’t mean we’re going to do what everyone suggests regardless of what Bill Hybels or Rick Warren said. 3) We have well thought out and well researched plans for reaching the lost and general church growth, and will do our best in implementing those. But we don’t believe it’s our well thought out plans that are going to get anything accomplished – mainly because effectively evangelizing a city like San Francisco is impossible.
Yes, I said it. It’s impossible.
But impossible’s not a problem.
I thank GOD that we have people like you and your wife working in SF. This is a field ripe for harvest.
Job 42:2; Is 50:7-10; Jer 32:17-27; Mt 19:26; Rom 4:18-21 – all from NIV
It’s good to know about your plans for San Francisco. I’m looking forward to reading more about the good things that are sure to happen. I was amused at some of the criticism of your plans. If our plans don’t work, we can always modify them. God has a way of working things out if we are willing to follow his lead.
Mike – thanks for the encouragement brother 🙂
Terry – glad to have you reading. You’re right, God does have a way of working things out when He’s our priority, doesn’t He? Proverbs 16:3 comes to mind.
And thanks for the Scriptures, mom! Very applicable. I’m lucky to have a woman of faith like you as one of my dearest mentors!
Here are those Scriptures:
1 Then Job replied to the LORD:
2 “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.
7 Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.
8 He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me!
9 It is the Sovereign LORD who helps me. Who is he that will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up.
10 Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.
17 “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.
18 You show love to thousands but bring the punishment for the fathers’ sins into the laps of their children after them. O great and powerful God, whose name is the LORD Almighty,
19 great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds. Your eyes are open to all the ways of men; you reward everyone according to his conduct and as his deeds deserve.
20 You performed miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt and have continued them to this day, both in Israel and among all mankind, and have gained the renown that is still yours.
21 You brought your people Israel out of Egypt with signs and wonders, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror.
22 You gave them this land you had sworn to give their forefathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.
23 They came in and took possession of it, but they did not obey you or follow your law; they did not do what you commanded them to do. So you brought all this disaster upon them.
24 “See how the siege ramps are built up to take the city. Because of the sword, famine and plague, the city will be handed over to the Babylonians who are attacking it. What you said has happened, as you now see.
25 And though the city will be handed over to the Babylonians, you, O Sovereign LORD, say to me, ‘Buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed.'”
26 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah:
27 “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead– since he was about a hundred years old– and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.
20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God,
21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.
Thanks for sharing 🙂
Wes & Ariel – good for you!!! God works best when it looks impossible to men. If we could do it, why would God need to. I’m thankful there are those like you strong enough in faith to follow the Lord’s leading. HE will be the one to make this work.
I’ll be keeping you close to the Father’s heart in prayer.
Please continue to post on this subject. I am excited to see what adventures the Lord takes you on. SF is a key location. Not only that but there are so many hurt people there needing the love of Jesus.
Wes, it’s so good to see how God is using you and your family to bring lost souls home. You’ll never know the impact you have had and will have on heaven until you get there.
It’s also great to see God using someone in my own family to do His work. I’m proud of you for sticking to your vision and for doing what God has planned for you. I pray you will remain encouraged as you make your way to SF and especially when you’re there.
All our love,
Paul, Andra & Emmaly
May God bless you in your efforts. What you are doing make look and be very “radical”. But if Mr . Webster knows what he’s talking about the word radical is defined as Pretaining to the root or origin; or being fundamental . The world needs more fundamental Christianity today.
It’s a challenge ,always has been and always will be.
Keep up the good work!!!
[…] We’ve formed a ministry team made up a church staff and key members, and I’ve helped facilitate a study on Church Growth that we’ve been working on every Wednesday since January. In addition to preaching nearly every Sunday night, a considerable amount of my energy has gone into this study, and I’m happy to say we’ll be done with it next week. Before we can change our church’s structure, we have to change our member’s thinking about what the local church really is, what its mission should be, and how it should function. These studies have really helped us have conversations that matter (NOTE: For those of you that aren’t aware, our ministry team moved to San Francisco to work with an existing church struggling to survive instead of simply planting a new one. Many have said we were crazy to do this, but guess what – it’s working! You can read what I have to say to the naysayers here.) […]
[…] This is that attitude that says, “We can’t do anything because we’re small.” As a result, no dreaming takes place. A preacher I look up once said, “You ought to set God-sized goals for your life. A God-sized goal is a goal that’s so big, so huge, so massive, that it will only be accomplished if God is involved! Set it, take action to achieve it, and pray for God to get involved!” The same principle applies to churches. If a church group never dreams, if a church group never develops a desire to be part of something bigger than themselves, it could be because they’re suffering from an inferiority complex that says, “We’re not good enough, talented enough, wealthy enough, whatever enough …” Or they compare themselves to other churches: “We not X church with X resources, so we can’t do Y.” Not only does this attitude show the people making up the church group don’t believe in themselves, they’re also displaying a lack of faith in God. After all, He can do the impossible! […]