Extending Gospel Ministries Through Difficulty
Partners with the President with Jenni Key, Philip Abode and Pablo Cachon
Every month, EFCA President Kevin Kompelien highlights stories, vision and leadership from around the EFCA in his monthly e-newsletter, "Partners with the President." This month, Kevin interviewed three EFCA Board of Directors about how they've helped shepherd their churches through difficult seasons. You can watch the full interview here.
Ministry is a labor of love. I know from decades of ministry experience, those who serve in church leadership regularly engage in life’s most difficult circumstances—the death of a child, the pain of infidelity, friends and family who walk away from faith. Pastors and leaders know all too well how much the brokenness of sin affects our lives.
In the last year many in our churches, communities and workplaces have known difficulty in ways not experienced before. You know this all too well: From COVID-19 to racial injustice to political polarization to economic hardship and more, people are weary. I’ve also spoken to many of you, church leaders, pastors and ReachGlobal missionaries, who are weary from the unrelenting waves of challenges that require more from you with every passing day.
Let me pause and say, EFCA pastors and leaders, thank you for your commitment to the bride of Christ. I know the pressures on you have been immense. I’ve read multiple studies on the impact of the last year on the longevity of pastors, and I empathize with all you’ve endured. Know that your labors are not in vain.
Yet, hope remains. We move forward in the marathon of ministry because of the finished work of Jesus Christ who, in His life, death and resurrection, provides the way for true restoration, true satisfaction and true life (John 10:10). For those we are called to shepherd, in times like these, when trials and changes abound, I think of our foundation stones—those elements of the EFCA’s DNA that remind us of our dependable and unwavering God and inform how we live and minister in our world.
There is a reason they are called foundation stones—they offer a sure footing because they point directly to the all-sufficient, satisfying God of Creation through His Word and His gospel. Nothing, not the changing culture or the afflictions of the day, will change the love and compassion God shows to His people or the mission he has called the EFCA to pursue.
Abide - Prayerful dependence on Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit
Word of God - Know and obey God’s authoritative Scriptures
Gospel - Centrality of the transforming work of Christ
Mission - Great Commandment and Great Commission disciplemaking among all people
Community - Priesthood of all believers in appropriate interdependence
Unity - In essentials unity, in the rest charity
It may seem trite, but unless people encounter Jesus, we’re merely putting a temporary fix on any of their issues. When those entrusted to our care face challenges, they don’t need a fancy ministry strategy, a new ministry opportunity or another small group—although those elements help make ministry possible—they need Jesus. Let’s be sure that all we do points people back to the good news of the resurrected Christ.
As young children, I’m almost certain that you memorized a song intended to teach you this essential truth—that God is a faithful and sure foundation.
I won’t sing you the song, but I’ll point you to its origins:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matthew 5:24-25).
Notice the stress the wise man’s house went through—the rain, the floods, the heavy winds. His house faced difficulty in so many ways; yet it stood. Trials and hardship may come like a violent storm but none of it can topple us when we’re planted on Jesus’ firm foundation.
To me, this passage sounds like life in the last twelve months. Take heart in knowing that your faithfulness to point others to the sufficient Christ is exactly what they need.
But what does this look like in the local church, at home, in your workplace or in the context of relationships with others? There is no cookie cutter response, but I believe humility is an essential element that helps us love and shepherd others during difficulty.
A humble posture
As a leader, friend, parent and fellow believer, this year has reminded me that we must listen to and learn from one another as we seek to honor the Lord and fulfill the Great Commandment and Great Commission.
While we all share the same foundation, the storms we face are unique. I’ve found myself working harder in the last year to understand the difficulties of others.
I think of the single parent who lost their childcare during the pandemic, the shut-ins who are desperately lonely, children who lost parents to COVID-19, those who have experienced physical need because of the loss of employment, and the experience of our African American brothers and sisters as they try and understand equality and justice in America. The list obviously goes on and on.
Thankfully, we have something to guide us as we seek to understand the difficulties of others. The EFCA Statement of Faith itself lays out how we should live:
“God commands us to love Him supremely and others sacrificially, and to live out our faith with care for one another, compassion toward the poor and justice for the oppressed.”
We love God first and love Him supremely. He is our firm foundation, but also our North Star. Our relationship with the Great Shepherd will define and guide what our relationships look like with others. We are told what that should look like in Scripture:
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
As we listen, learn and walk humbly with God, our hearts will naturally overflow with compassion for others. We will learn to follow the example of Jesus, who in His humility lived among us and experienced the worst of humanity, displaying selfless, sacrificial love for others through it all.
Living it out
In the EFCA, many wonderful pastors, leaders, missionaries and churches are diligently working in and through difficulty and tension with their eyes fixed on God’s mission to reach the lost and the broken. I’m grateful for their steadfast leadership, pouring out themselves in their local communities, despite the tumultuousness of the year.
Since they’ve seen this firsthand, I gathered several members of the EFCA Board of Directors—Jenni Key, Philip Abode and Pablo Cachon—to offer insight into how EFCA pastors and leaders can continue to shepherd the church well through difficulty. I love their practical examples, and I invite you to join me and listen to them share their hearts:
We are truly part of a great movement—full of dedicated leaders with humble, kingdom-focused hearts. Through the trials and difficulties, leaders from across our movement have been seeking God’s heart and returning to our foundation. If you want to see how God has moved through the EFCA, I invite you to join me at EFCA One! We cannot wait to be together virtually on June 23 to celebrate our mighty God and hear the stories of how EFCA churches have grown. I sincerely hope you’ll join us.