My mentor/pastor for 18 years (1991-2009) was Ray Nethery, the founder of the ARC. I talked with Ray on a weekly basis for most of those years and we developed a woderful relationship. He cared for me (and still does) as I sorted through the demands of pastoral ministry and personal growth. Early on in that relationship He shared a very short and very real perspective on a particular frustration I was encountering. And though it was not particularly meaningful at the time, his words have returned multiple times and helped to ground me in the reality of ministry in a broken and challenging world.
He said this in response to my exasperation with whatever was bothering me (I can’t recall the issue): “Ned, nothing stands still.”
Okay. Good enough. I know that. You most likely know that as well. But upon further reflection in the swirl of ministry, I began to see my own heart in the matters that challenge all of us. In truth, I deeply wanted everything to “STAND Still !!” Why? Because then I could control what was going on and make clear headed decisions that would solve problems and help people move on in a fixed environment that would yield to my pristine wisdom. Or something close to that.
But what I was hoping for was a reasonable solution that would help either the church or an individual to “get it” and we could keep moving forward to a good conclusion. And then onto the next problem and so forth. Now, in truth, it has never been like that in all of the 40 years that I have been a leader among my people. And, aah, there was the rub. I was largely acting like all of this belonged to me. I would never say that but more often than not I was acting like that. But, you know, nothing stands still. There are so many moving parts in a church or a human life that demand a very present relationship with Jesus. He continues to believe that He alone is the Head of the church, His people for whom He laid down His life.
So really, living well and fruitfully within the calling bequeated to us by Jesus will mean that we sustain an open ear to the One who has the next move or the next response. He is sovereign and gracious and expects that His leaders will learn Him, and learn His ways. And respond accordingly.
Think with me for a moment of the myriad of moving parts that make up your life and ministry:
*You grow and change.
How I thought and acted at the age of 26 is profoundly different than my present stately age of 67. I have gone through multiple seasons and challenges that have pushed me rightly back to my dependence on a Savior to make sense of all of this. And He does.
*Everone else changes as well
If you’re married, I perhaps need to say no more! You got married with a very clear but insufficient set of hopes and expectations. And then she changed! And you had to adjust. And she to you as well. It’s a bit of a dance, right? And if you dance properly to the music. you have to learn the steps. With a partner who is also learning and growing. And in so many church situations, people come and go, sometimes with very little sense of the values that you hold so dearly. Nothing stands still
*The circumstances of life and ministry change
You get older. You get sick. You get depressed. You feel like you should stretch out to a new path. Or fill in the blank. We need for sure a clear sense of the promises of God that never change but the milieu where we must apply them is always moving. And if we don’t have a living relationship with Jesus through His Spirit, we easily get exhausted. This is Paul’s remedy: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit”. And the Spirit alone sees clearly and knows the next steps, the best approach and how to engage what lies before us. But that will always call for waiting, listening and quietly trusting His wisdom that will frequently push against your own conclusions.
*We are not called to control anything but to respond like a servant, to do the bidding of a Master
Just before He went to the cross, Jesus said this: “Whoever serves me must follow me. And where I am , there will my servant be also” (John 12:26). This is how I hear these words. You’re not in charge of anything ultimately. Jesus is and He’s very good at this. His expectation is that your service to Him will be a deliberate following to wherever He is in any circumstance or with any person. He’s someplace, thinking something. And serving will always mean following to where He is. This is walking by the Spirit
And of course there are thousands more things to add. But if nothing stands still, I have to move with Him. He’s always right. And being where He is is our greatest motivation. I love David’s heart in Psalm 23. The shepherd gets him beside still water, feeds him in green pastures and out of that place leades him into paths of righteousness. So often we look for that leading but we’re not very quiet or recptive. More often than not we’re trying to control or figure out the dilemma, whatever it is. But He is so keen on leading us. Calling us to follow and get to where He is. And it’s in that place that His will is done and His fruit ensues
So, yes, nothing stands still. But Jesus remains unconfused and not nervous. He does the right thing and says the right words in every circumstance. And is willing to teach all of us His ways. This is our wonderful lot and will remain such until He returns.
May He grant us abundant grace to follow Him in the swirl of everything moving and changing at increasingly rapid movements