Everything about life and ministry is hard. I think about my brothers and sisters in Christ being persecuted around the world and I realize how insignificant and petty my "hard" things really are. At the same time, "hard" is relative, and I think it's ok to admit things feel hard even if they might seem small when comparing them to larger global issues.
Change. Change is so hard. When you first plant a church, or at least when we planted The Pathway, change isn't a big deal at all. There's no history. There are no committees. There are no agendas. There aren't even any "churched" people. But now that we've been in Tacoma 6 years, we're starting to feel the difficulty of change. You grow to love so many different things... but you grow to love people in particular. Whether it's due to a move, a change in life stage, something simpler or something more difficult, change is hard.
Autonomy. Standing on our own two feet is hard. In every aspect of the church, we see a biblical model of dependence. We are to lean on each other, we are to lean on Jesus, we are to lean on the Holy Spirit. But in church planting, the goal is autonomy and ultimately reproduction... hopefully even multiplication. But autonomy is hard. Autonomy is scary. Autonomy demands faith.
Generosity. Generosity is really, really hard. Not at first mind you. But once you live generously, I mean extremely generously, either individually or corporately, and then you get burned... it's really hard to keep being generous. But Jesus was generous. We are called to be generous. We can't stop no matter how hard it is.
Leadership. Leadership is hard. There are more days than I care to admit when I would like to throw all my responsibility out the window. Leadership means pain. When others struggle, you struggle. When others hurt, you hurt. It also means joy. But somehow the pain seems to come in larger doses than the joy... at times. Leadership is also hard in the realm of raising up and empowering biblical leaders. Specifically elders. We have desired to be an elder-led church since our inception, but I believe with all my heart you don't just pick elders. I believe elders are called by God and it's simply (or not so simply) our job to identify them. They have to want it. They have to be called. They have to be qualified. And they don't grow on trees. Leadership is hard.
Reproduction. Reproduction is our vision. We want to be a reproducing church. But it's so stinking' hard. Every time you feel like you've got something good going... BAM!... brick wall. And you don't want to reproduce the wrong things. That would be like passing around a disease. You can infect so many different people and negatively impact the Kingdom of God by reproducing the wrong things. Reproduction is hard.
All these things are hard, but they are absolutely no match for the power of God's Word! We've been studying Genesis as a church and it's rocking my world! God is so big and he cares so much. He cares about the big things, but he also cares about the little things. I have hope because of his bigness. I have hope because of his personal nature. I have hope because of his omnipotence. I have hope because of his love and grace through Jesus. I have hope even in the midst of the hard.
I'll close with words from the Apostle Paul that have brought me great hope in the midst of recent hard.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)
Keep praying! God is working in the midst of the "hard" and I'm excited to see all that he has in store for The Pathway and for the city of Tacoma in 2016 and beyond!