Wednesday, July 27, 2011

13 Characteristics of a Growing Church: Patience

Bad days happen. It's the truth, and it's a fact of life. We all have bad days. We all go through our own unique set of trials in life. We each suffer in our own way. Something that might be particularly trying for me--like going without air conditioning--might be no big deal for you. However, we all go through stuff in our lives.

We all have days like today where we just want to rip our hair out or throw ourselves down on the bed and cry until we can't possibly cry anymore. I know that in the week or so that we have been home from mission trip things have been trying for me and I have felt my own personal brand of suffering. People in the church just don't understand why the youth minister can't force the teenagers to come to church. I can encourage them and plan events that are exciting and hope to draw them in but I can't physically force them to come to church and sit through a worship service that may or may not appeal to them. I can't tell you how many times I have heard people say, "Where are the youth?" since we have been home. I don't know why but the first couple of weeks after mission trip are always the worst as far as youth attendance at church. I try my best to be patient but it isn't easy. I know this attendance slump will end and I won't have to hear the grumblings again until after mission trip next year but that doesn't make it much easier. So what should I do? That's what we are going to talk about today.

So here's a quick recap of the Characteristics of a Growing Church:
1st Love Genuinely
2nd Hate What is Evil
3rd Cling to What is Good
4th Devoted to One Another
5th Humility
6th Excitement
7th Stability
8th Service
9th Hope

The 10th characteristic of a growing Church is Patience in Affliction.
"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12 NIV

Ok, so I realize that listening to people complain because our youth group church attendance isn't as high as they like it isn't the most "afflicted" thing that people are dealing with out in the world, but it is an example that I can relate to right now. So like I said before, what should I do?

I think that Romans 12:12 makes it pretty clear that we are to be patient. Patience isn't really one of my strongest virtues. How about you? Things can get pretty rough. Life can be overwhelmingly hard. The last thing we want to do is be patient and the first thing that we want to do is panic, but we can't do that. To make a snap decision or change or to simply pack it up and move because things got hard is not necessarily God's will for you or me or our churches. God wants us to be patient as we go through these hard times and to trust Him to see us through. It's a tough thing to do. Fortunately, God never promised us that life as a Christian or as a church was going to be easy so we can't feel like He's been deceiving us on that one.

There's a reason that God tells us to trust in Him and not in OUR understandings (Proverbs 3:5-6). Basically the reason is because we CAN'T understand it. Our nature is not to be patient when we are going through something that is hard. We want a quick and easy fix that is going to make life easier! That's the whole reason that the "Easy Button" campaign for Staples works so well. We want things to go our way and we want it to go our way fast.

However, there are times in our lives that we need to go through affliction and suffering. In Romans 5:3-5 it says, "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." God uses the struggles and hard things in our lives and our churches to develop important characteristics in us. Without those times as reference points in our lives, how can we really enjoy and appreciate the great and amazing things that He does for us? I know it's hard, but this week I encourage you to try and be patient with whatever struggles you are going through. Look for God and for His bigger picture, and I will try to do the same.

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