“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.