Now that January is nearly over…Happy New Year to all you friends and colleagues in rural ministry! Sorry, I’m a little behind already. Are you feeling like you or your ministry has fallen behind too? If so, that’s why I’m here: to support and encourage you toward growth so you don’t have to stay in that slump.
I launched this ministry in January of 2018 because there just weren’t very many Biblically grounded, rural specific resources for pastors and lay leaders. (Happy 3rd anniversary too, by the way!) Just like road-side assistance can be difficult to come by on our gravel roads or even on “the hard road”, it is so easy to feel lost or stuck and alone in rural ministry, especially if you’re quite a distance from your nearest colleagues. So here we are, together yet apart, to push or drag one another out of the ditch that 2020 left in our path.
First, have you taken a moment to just breathe deeply and remember the presence of the Lord? One of my devotional readings this month reminded me that “God didn’t bring you this far to leave you”. Hebrews 13:5 & 6 remind us, “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So, we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.'” Do not be afraid for your ministry this year. God is with you and will help you.
There are so many more encouraging messages from God in Hebrews chapter 13. You don’t want me to take the time here to preach that sermon series, but I encourage you to take some time to meditate on these words and receive the Spirit of God afresh.
Secondly, have you counted the blessings of 2020? First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” The practice of gratitude brings a fresh energy and focus to us and our ministry. By the Holy Spirit’s communion with us in that practice, we recognize God’s will and are directed toward our next steps.
I encourage you, if you have not already, to take a moment to list what good things happened in your ministry in 2020, and share that list with your congregation(s) so they too can give thanks and receive this fresh energy and encouragement in the Lord. You’ll be glad you did.
Finally, write down your goals for 2021 and begin to pray over them daily. OK, I know, so much is still uncertain. Last year’s goals were basically thrown out the window by March and that is just around the corner. Why bother? Well, because Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.”
And in 2 Chronicles 15, Azariah said to Asa and all Judah and Benjamin, “The Lord is with you when you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you…For a long time Israel was without the true God… In those days it was not safe to travel about for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil…But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” That’s another chapter worth reading more completely these days.
God has a plan for your ministry and the uncertainty of these days doesn’t mean a thing to God. He already knows what will happen tomorrow. So, as Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.” Goals help you get started. They can be penciled in and shifted as the year goes by and the Spirit leads, but without goals, we often fail to even start.
If we are in a ditch and don’t set the goal of getting out, then we might just stay in that ditch or abandon the vehicle to be towed away by someone else. On the other hand, if we say with confidence, “We’re going to get out of this ditch,” and begin to seek the needed guidance, help, and resources, the odds of getting out improve greatly.
Let me illustrate: Due to icy conditions, my husband ended up in a ditch on his way to work yesterday morning (before he even got out of town). He started to reach for his phone to call and let them know he wouldn’t make it. Then he realized, the highway was clearer and he had tire chains in the back. He made it his goal to get to work even if he would be a little late. With a little effort he made it, and he was only five minutes late. (For his normal routine, that is actually about 20 minutes behind schedule, but this is why he consistently allows that extra time in his commute.)
You are in that driver’s seat. You have a choice: will you phone it in and abandon your ministry potential or determine to seek growth this year? If you choose growth, and I hope for the sake of the Kingdom that you do, I’m here to help.
If you’re in a place where you’d like to call for some “road-side assistance”, check out my services page or just reach out below to schedule a free coaching session, and we can work together to find the assistance that’s right for you and your ministry.
Happy New Year, and God bless you and your ministry with growth in 2021!