Last week, I started to teach a 4-part series on becoming more successful and productive in life. As I said in the first part – last week’s ‘Is Your God Asleep?’ - a lot of people frequently approach me with the question, “I’ve done everything I can and nothing is working. Why?" This series captures principles and understanding that I’ve gleaned through the years as I’ve grappled with this dilemma. My prayer and hope is that you will gain insights here that will enable you to overcome stagnation and frustration in your life.
We are looking at 4 answers to the above question. So far, we’ve examined one: The God-Factor is inactive – "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain." ~ Psalms 127:1 Please, click here for an in-depth examination of that first answer.
Let’s look at the second answer.
#2 Laboring in ignorance
"A fool’s work wearies him; he does not know the way to town."
~ Ecclesiastes 10:15
Here, the person is doing all he can, but nothing is working because he’s not implementing the right keys and strategies. Furthermore, this person is not even aware of his ignorance; notice that he is called a fool, that is, someone who doesn’t know but thinks he does. This is a major cause of stagnation and frustration in life.
I’ve been here more often than I should. This is usually the domain of logical, reasonable but ineffective theories and assumptions. Some solutions that appear to be smart – or spiritual – just do not cut the mustard.
In my early days as a pastor, I had so many ideas on how to grow a church and increase the attendance and membership. I was full of ideas and ‘knowledge’. I prayed. I fasted. I preached. I visited people in their homes. I made sure the worship atmosphere was beautifully decorated and colorful. I taught the ushers to be nice and cordial. Then I organized lots of events to pray for people, teach them, pray for them, and so on. These were smart and spiritual things to do.
The problem however was that with regards to my goal of increasing membership and attendance, they were not working!
The attendance to church continued to fluctuate between 25 and 45. This was absolutely frustrating. I was constantly sad and depressed because just like you, I hate to fail. A lot of times then, I would be so sad and discouraged I wouldn’t even want to go to church. Yes, I was so discouraged I would stay back home and tell my wife that I wasn’t going to go on anymore. She, in turn not knowing what else to do, or how else to help me, would start crying! Some of those times she would invite one of the elderly women to come and help her to encourage me and get me to church.
Oh my! I was such a fool, laboring in ignorance, completely wearied by my labors because I did not know the way to town; I did not know how to achieve my dreams. Of course, I didn’t know then that I was being foolish, after all I was ‘certain’ I knew what I was doing.
Well, God let me exhaust my smartness and knowledge. Finally, I came to the point that I realized I just didn’t know how to get the results I dreamt of as a pastor. It was at that point that I began to seek God’s face to teach me how to increase the attendance and membership of my church.
And He did.
He simply inspired a conversation within my heart that revealed the way to me.
At that time I began to think, “The real problem is that a lot of people come to my church, but they never get to stay.” Clearly, and without any shadows of doubts, they were blessed by my teachings and prayers – they said so and testified about it. Yet, I wondered, “why didn’t they stay back?”
Suddenly, a thought flashed into my mind. “Wait a minute!” it reasoned, “if you were to go to a hospital with excellent services and facilities, and if they were to treat your ailment perfectly, would you then stay back there for the rest of your life?”
"Of course not,” I thought, “I would always go back to my own home regardless of how great the hospital experience was.”
“Now,” it continued, “What if you went to a great restaurant and experienced an awesome treat in terms of the food and services there, would you then abandon your home to go and live in that restaurant?”
My answer was a firm ‘no.’ I would always go back to my own home regardless of how great the restaurant experience was.”
Again, it came to me in terms of a filling station, “What if you had such a tremendous experience with respect to the services of the filling station, would that make you move in to live there?”
“Of course not,” was my response.
Then came the realization within me that I’d been running my church like a hospital, a restaurant, and a filling station. People came to my church to be healed, to be fed, and to be filled, but they always left afterwards because they had their homes to go to. I realized from the inspiration of the Lord that I needed to make my church a home for the people if I wanted to see more of them come and abide.
Furthermore, He helped me understand what makes a home: Unconditional acceptance. Home is a place I’m free to be me without fear of censorship or rejection. I learnt from the Lord that I needed to create and nurture that kind of atmosphere in my church.
And I did.
Two weeks later, a church of 25 went to 86. The next week, it jumped to 120!
I achieved in just 3 weeks what I had been unable to achieve in 3 years!
You see, when light comes, stagnation, laboring in vain, and frustration exit.
At this point you are probably thinking, how can I access this light – this necessary wisdom and understanding – for my particular situation?
Well, this post is already long enough; so, I’ll continue tomorrow…