Passing safely through the pressures of our day
One of the best bits of advice I was given in a time of major transition, and just as I began serving in full-time ministry, was “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). The New Living Translation says it like this: “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” The New King James Version says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Could these words be true of our hearts individually and of our heartbeat denominationally? The courses of our lives, personally and collectively, are being challenged and tested with every thought and every decision we make. And it is our shared heart responses that ultimately influence our decisions and culture as a denominational family.
Ministry has been filled with some of the most joyful and, at the same time, the most confounding experiences. The cognitive dissonance experienced in Christian community and service over time is part of what I believe God uses to prepare those who are faithful for times like these, so that we might not rely on ourselves or on our own understanding, but on God, who knows all things, and in whose hands all our times are held.1
In January 2021, Barna reported that 29 per cent of pastors wanted to resign.2 By fall 2021, Barna reported a sharp increase in pastoral burnout. As of March 2022, the percentage of pastors who have considered quitting full-time ministry within the past year sits at 42 per cent, a 13 percentage point increase from the previous year’s report.3 Church attendance in Canada had plunged by the end of 2021, although faith in God remained nearly the same.4
What does this mean for our growth as a North American denomination? Regardless of our area of calling in ministry, we feel the pressures and the tension between what the culture is communicating about the worthiness of Christian community as we have known it and our mandate to “reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
As a member of a Fellowship formed around the work and the activity of the Spirit, I’m drawn back continually to the encouragement we have been given to trust God with what is unseen—both regarding matters that pertain to us uniquely and to the “bigger-picture” matters of the kingdom. Each of us can do no more than our own part to move as closely as possible to what we believe to be God’s perfect desire, trusting that the outcomes will be shaped by His hand and ultimately by His timing (Proverbs 3:5-6; Ecclesiastes 3:11). Canadian John G. Lake (1870-1935) did just that when he took a step of faith to leave a successful career in insurance to become a full-time preacher. After a series of decisions he believed to be “in the best interests of the kingdom of God,”5 he was ultimately led to serve as a missionary in South Africa.6 Many lives were changed through his commitment to persevering in God’s call in spite of obstacles that included economic distress and the premature death of his first wife. Reading more about him and the other 49 people featured in 50 Pentecostal and Charismatic Leaders Every Christian Should Know could spark some ideas of how God might be leading us today.
James T. Bradford exhorts us to make more room for the Holy Spirit in corporate gatherings because “God’s personal presence in us and with us has always been God’s passion.”7
He warned against settling for the mechanics of ministry and, in so doing, denying people what they really need. I see this as true in our personal lives as well. What better way is there to receive comfort, direction and strength for our hearts than to focus on making more room for the Holy Spirit? It is in seeking and relying on the Holy Spirit, personally and corporately, that we will be guided in the right direction.
This article appeared in the October/November/December 2022 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2022 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photo by DAVID NIETO on Unsplash
- 1 John 3:20; Psalm 31:15.
- “Pastors Share Top Reasons They’ve Considered Quitting Ministry in the Past Year,” Barna Group Inc., April 27, 2022, accessed August 3, 2022, https://www.barna.com/research/pastors-quitting-ministry. Note: Barna’s research for this study was based on pastors living in the United States.
- Jessica Mundie, “While church attendance among Canadians plunges, belief in God stays nearly the same: poll,” National Post, December 24, 2021, accessed August 3, 2022, https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/while-church-attendance-among-canadians-plunges-belief-in-god-stays-nearly-level-poll.
- Dean Merrill, 50 Pentecostal and Charismatic Leaders Every Christian Should Know (Bloomington, MN: Chosen Books, 2021), 42.
- James T. Bradford, “Leading People to the Spirit’s Life: Three pastoral doorways for leading people toward the Holy Spirit,” Influence, May 11, 2016, accessed August 3, 2022, https://influencemagazine.com/en/Practice/Leading-People-to-the-Spirits-Life