Amidst all the excitement and challenge of settling into a new place is getting into a church body. This has been totally great for us here, as we never felt that we fitted in anywhere after trying several churches in our last living place. We loved the community of believers in Mwanza, had a great little church when we lived on the West Rand, but have not had a good place to fit into, and share faith much, over the last few years.
Our new house of faith, the Vilhelmina Fria Församlingen (Free Congregation) is a great little place. It is not too big and impersonal, we were made to feel welcome from the first time we walked in, and they try to help us understand what is going on in English!
One of the special things is that the church leaders want to get people acting on faith and using gifts God has given. They got excited to know that I love the idea of teaching Biblical truth, and so have given me a spot to preach one Sunday.
This is so exciting and thrilling, and fulfils one of my heart dreams. Until the reality of preparing (as seen above) and preaching comes…
I have never been a church leader and have not had to give sermons every week. But I have had opportunities to speak: at school assemblies, often in my grandfather’s mission churches, and once or twice at small conference groups. I LOVED teaching Biblical Studies when it was offered at school and the constant teaching of word thrilled my soul. But this opportunity feels so different. This is real church. The audience is more educated, mature and ‘strong’ in their faith than most of the other audiences I have faced (sorry to all my past students reading this…) .
Every time I have spoken in the past, I would always be challenged on what I was going to be sharing. I remember the talk I gave on perseverance once: the week or two before the talk was full of tests to persevere. I expected a bit of challenge and testing in preparation of this sermon.
But not the level of testing I have felt in my heart and mind. This extreme was beyond what I thought reasonable.
There have been my usual challenges: ‘Who are you to think you can talk?’ ‘Nobody can understand you anyway’. And the usual lie that I constantly face ‘Just kill yourself and get it over with’ (Yes, really. That is a default setting in my brain. And it requires constant fighting with God’s truth.)
Then there have been physical challenges: Sky high fevers, pains, unexpected body reactions.
Then the left field (and right field and centre field??) challenges all at once. A Swedish level-check test that left me feeling completely uneducated and low. very odd temptations that are not the usual darts that I experience.
It takes ongoing prayer and alertness to make it through all these challenges.
BUT. Here is the real point.
If this is what I go through for one sermon, what do our church leaders face every week? Every day?
This is about those who really care about the sheep who have been entrusted to them. Those who seek first God’s kingdom.
More and more I am seeing how the enemy of our souls seeks to do all that he can to keep people from the kingdom. He will never tell a person how fantastic and wonderful and great he is, and especially not when that person is serious about the business of the Kingdom.
The challenges and tests I am experiencing would be a constant battle to those who regularly stand before others to share the Word, and to be a light for God.
Billy Graham admits to facing all the temptations the world could throw at him. There would not be a godly kingdom-worker alive who has not faced temptations, challenges and tests, regularly.
So. Here is my proposal. Instead of looking for things to judge and criticise in those whom God has anointed to lead us in His Kingdom, let us lift them up in constant, sincere, directed prayers so that they can be more effective in what God has called them to do.
I LOVE these two people. God has allowed Hennie and Anschke to be our friends, pastors and journey-sharers for about 3 or 4 years now. I am amazed at their hearts: for the community they are called to be in, for the farm where God has called them to plant, and for the people God has driven them to serve.
Just the name of the church, Gemeente Sonder Grense (Congregation without borders), speaks to a commitment to go beyond. And they are looking to do that, more than ever.
But because we are friends, we have come to see some of the great challenges faced in their ministry. Hennie faces some really tough health challenges. They have both faced several crises: having a home set alight by those they wished to serve. Crazy challenges in the family they are loving. Threats to safety and wellbeing. These are some of the more noticeable challenges. I am sure there are several that are not given public space.
How do they keep on going where there is not the same kind of mega-growth of mega-churches? How do such leaders persevere when the eyes do not see physically what the heart of faith is telling them to believe?
And now we have new spiritual leaders. On Saturday our precious new little church formally welcomes Peter and Camilla to leadership. Already we have been blessed by the heart of love and passion for the kingdom we have seen. We know of a few challenges they have faced: crazy electrical faults that burned out a lot of goods in their home, animal challenges, family issues…
So. Please take time to pray, earnestly, for those God has anointed into leadership over you. When last did you show appreciation for the position your leaders face? Give a little thank you.
Do not stand in judgment and criticism. It is so easy to point fingers, especially if you have never been in their position. Realise that this is a very very spiritual battle and that God has called certain people to help lead us in this crazy, dangerous, wild journey called Kingdom life. These people take the brunt of spiritual attack so often. They may lie awake nights praying for and mulling over concerns of their ‘sheep’. They may visit with people who need presence until long past what others would accept as reasonable office hours. They are a part of the varied and rather wild spiritual journeys of many that God has entrusted to them.
The enemy will definitely not leave them alone, if they are really concerned about the Kingdom of God.
Ask for God to protect their marriages and their children (don’t just simply mock a ‘PK’). Pray for protection of health, home, wellbeing. Most pastors are not doing it for the money! Pray that God will build their trust in Him even more. That they will hear His words for their sheep, and that God will provide all that is needed to carry out the work. That God will lead them in integrity and increase the work of their hands.
It is the call of God on every believer to SEEK FIRST HIS KINGDOM. We are doing this together. Our leaders need us to support them through Kingdom building, and to be a part of the journey.
Let us lift up those God has entrusted with leading us, and pray for them like we have not thought to do before.