From Bill Easum<//b>

It has been my experience that three out of four pastors who try to turn a church around lose their job.

OnLine Conversations

“frustrated”
“negative growth area”
“discouraged”
“nothing to offer”
“seven years of hard, hard work, prayer, and some suffering”
“inadequate and overwhelmed”
“dogged faithfulness”
“apathy pervades”
“very fearful”
“I hope my attitude isn’t all washed up”
“poignant”
“resistance”
“controlites”
“terminal disease”
“it has taken two years to heal”
“I may never be as successful as…”
“annoying”

Dear, dear friends…

The cost is high, isn’t it? So much so that a forum called “advanced leadership” could also be called “Rachel’s cry.” There is so much pain in the e-mails of leaders who are faithful and devoted to bringing the transforming power of Jesus to people who are broken and suffering that they will do so at the risk of great brokenness and suffering in their own lives and the lives of those they love. You can feel Jesus weeping and wanting to gather us up and hold us close. You can hear him saying,
“I am bearing this burden with you.”
“Have no fear little flock.”
“Do not worry about tomorrow.”
“Do not fear, I will help you.”
“Streams of living water WILL flow from you.”
“YOU WILL DO GREATER THINGS THAN ME.”

I believe that Jesus is using these cries to do something brand new…right now. I believe these are the cries of leaders who are faithful to say, “I will cry these cries, and I will bear these pains for the sake of Him who sent me.” I also believe that these same leaders (i.e. you and me) are looking around at bright beacons of light — communities where the new thing Jesus is doing might be more greatly evident — and daring to dream, “If you can do that there, God, with that leader, and with those faithful servants, can’t you do something like that through me?” These are the cries of leaders who ache for joy and passionate purpose for themselves, their families, and everyone else with whom they follow Jesus Christ.

I think God is saying much, much more than just, “Hang in there. Keep plugging along. I’m in control.” I think God is saying, “I am so in control that I am giving you sure and certain signs that are pointing to my desire for you.” And maybe God is saying, “Don’t pass by those signs too quickly. Dwell there–and soak up the living water you find.” For instance, Tom’s books and Bill’s books are signs. The wisdom and power of many of the e-mails here are signs. The on-line seminars and the 2002 EBA Tour are signs that point to the streams of God’s blessing in the world. It seems so hard to really jump into those streams and swim. It’s scary.

We’ve been given signs that point us to what vision is all about and how to get it and how probably not to get it. We’ve been given signs that point us to bold steps for living authentically through conflict…signs that point us to structures that can effectively mobilize us for mission. I wonder if we blow by those signs too quickly. I feel that way because I believe that those signs point to living water yet so many of us seem so parched. How can we revisit the really crucial, key things that we learn from each other. How can we focus with laser-like precision on those things? How can we concretely encourage and embolden one another for the challenges of following Jesus?

This is a rallying cry, I guess. It cuts to the core to hear about people like Cathy’s pastor friend…and to hear our own feelings of inadequacy, overwhelmed-ness, frustration, sadness. Yes, the body of Christ this side of eternity will always be broken. But God promises all power to us as we do his work in the world. That you are even on this listserv says that you are an incredible, motivated, devoted spiritual leader who desperately wants to transform lives — whole communities — a whole world — with the life-saving power of Jesus Christ. You are n-o-t inadequate…you have everything to offer…and there IS a way through the desert of controllers and self-doubt and self-sabotage and listless eyes and passionless hearts. I have heard Bill Easum give his testimony and insist that if God could do it with him, God can do it with anybody. So here’s the point: The basics are powerful and this forum is all about leveraging the knowledge and power of those basics into our unique adventures as fully devoted followers. Are you having trouble hearing and seeing God’s vision for you and your church? Tell us about. Receive help and guidance. Then go rock and roll. Are you having trouble deciding how to respond to a controller? Tell us about it. Hear the wisdom. Then execute (not kill, but make it happen). Are you having trouble counting the cost of doing things that might get you fired? Tell us. We’ll walk with you. Of course, that’s precisely what’s already happening here…yet I sense that there’s something more for us. There’s the potential for more victory…for more celebration…for consistent realization of the redemptive potential that God has planted in your heart and in mine. Call me crazy or idealistic…but don’t call me naive…’cause I’m not that.

What needs to change in your church and in your life right now for you to be able to get closer to the dream God has put into your heart? How can we help each other?