Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Facing Obstacles in Ministry

I’ve just returned from my second short term mission trip to a bible training center near Vienna, Austria. While there, I was asked to share my testimony of a way God has worked in my life. I shared how, as a visually impaired person, I learned certain lessons that God would use later to help me endure a difficult season in my ministry. My vision loss strengthened my faith in God’s unlimited power to provide. It taught me perseverance (well, it started as stubbornness but the Lord transformed that into perseverance based on hope and faith in Him), and to give God the credit for my accomplishments rather than myself.

Then I shared the struggle of the past two years in the Children’s ministry program at my local church. Of all people, I should have had the solution to any problems our Children’s Ministry team faced. I have three education degrees, have taught in Children’s Ministry for 30 years and have written curriculum for over twenty years. Yet, in spite of my efforts and leadership, our children’s church reached an all time low. If you have continuously read this column, you may remember that there have been many a Sunday when we had only one student. Teachers drifted away for various reasons. Church members criticized our program. The two teachers left were discouraged and ready to give up.

We decided to make some crucial changes in our program. Still the numbers were meager. For nine months, we kept plugging away. Then, this past summer, suddenly, several children began attending regularly. Two have now accepted Christ. The mother of another new student was also baptized. We now have two new teachers and possibly more in the wings.

It was my faith in God’s power and my persistence to keep going that got me through this rough time. I don’t deny that it wasn’t easy! Yet, why did it take so long? To remind me and others that it was God’s doing, not our own efforts. He brings the increase.

The crowning glory of this struggle was that I was able to share this message of hope and encouragement to over 50 people from a variety of Eastern European nations. While many countries are from the former Soviet block, they still face discouragement, economic restrictions and sometimes danger in their efforts to share the gospel particularly with children

God allows us to struggle in our ministry to give us the opportunity to persevere. He tests our faith by seeing if we can stick to it during the tough times. Our struggles allow us to see and acknowledge that growth comes from Him, not through our efforts. Finally, God allows us to struggle not just so that we will grow in our faith but so that we might use the struggle to proclaim His glory and encourage fellow believers. As someone said during my time in Austria, “God comforts us not to make us comfortable but to make us comforters.”

How does God want you to use the conflicts you face in Children’s Ministry to honor Him?

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