Success is found in faithfulness.
When I think of the most successful people I know, I tend to think of people who are happy. I don't have many friends with millions of dollars. I don't know many executives at fortune 500 companies. Yet I know many, many successful people.
People who have held fast to God while the storms of life swept over them time and time again. Prophets who continue to do what God calls them to do even when it is not popular. Pastors who choose to preach the Gospel rather than family values or other attendance boosting topics.
Pastor Volodya and I had a conversation today about faith. It has always come easily to me. I've always held faith and doubt in the same hand. My mother always gave such a strong example to live by faith. There was always enough, and there would always be enough.
I have a hard time dealing with people who don't have any faith. It frustrates me when people lack the basic understanding that God will take care of it, whatever it may be.
These conversations in the church, these conversations about how pastors and churches have to have "vision" where "vision" is a marketing term for bigger, better, shinier - these conversations bother me. It always amuses me when they pull out that one verse in the Bible that in some translations supports their concept of vision.
Because instead of vision we need to have faith. We need to be able to see past today, to see past the "death tsunami" that is coming, to see past the sinner crumpled on the floor and to see what God sees. To see that we will have freedom from our sins. To see that our churches will recover. To see that God has a plan and to see that God's plan stretched beyond next year.
I think of my most formative moments in the church, and often those moments happened in times of struggle and grief. I saw pastors become real. I heard them cuss. I've seen them cry. I learned so much from them and the way they handled these situations.
Some lament small churches. Because I grew up in a small membership congregation, my pastor ALWAYS had time to meet with me. I'm glad that I didn't grow up in a big, fancy church.
I'll always remember my first scotch. I was staying with Lee and Nancy Paige, and Lee had been the senior pastor of one of the first mega churches as they emerged in the seventies. He had written books on contemporary worship that now seem so dated and out of place. He invited me to join him for a night-cap, and he told me that he has served churches of 80 and churches of thousands and that the real ministry only happens in the little churches. He passed away some years ago and his wife took over the little church he had been shepherding. Her sermons are great. I've always trusted his prognosis about "real ministry."
To have faith is to know that God will take care of some things. To know that God is working out the details in ways that will surprise and delight us.
Let go and let God.