People who change the world never give up

September 29th, 2014

A couple of years ago, through the Lewis Fellows Program, we got to spend two hours picking Rev. Adam Hamilton's brain at the Church of the Resurrection asking him questions on preaching, leadership, church administration, and so forth. Someone asked him, "What's one piece of advice that you would give us young pastors?" After taking a moment to think, he responded, "Don't give up. People who change the world never give up."

Then he began to share a time when about 800 people left the church at once. Most of the pastors in our group had never been part of a church of 800. Adam shared how difficult that season was. It wasn't just the occasional attendees who left the church. There were also leaders. People who were there from the beginning. Friends. People he trusted and loved. The thought of quitting entered his mind many times. But with the help of his wife's nudging, he didn't quit. And God has continued to do great things through him and COR. So his advice for us was to "never give up."

I remember hearing that thinking, "That's it?" I mean, this was Adam Hamilton. I expected something... deeper. I could've come up with the advice "Don't give up." We hear it every year during the ESPY season (award show for sports on ESPN) from that powerful speech that Coach Jim Valvano gave, "Don't give up. Don't ever give up."

But it's amazing that of all the pastors we've met through Lewis Fellows Program, of all the things we've learned, the one thing I remember ever so clearly is Hamilton's advice, "Don't give up. People who change the world never give up."

It also reminds me how the most profound thing can be the simplest of things.

Whether people know it or not, ministry can be draining. The thoughts of washing one's hands clean of a ministry and walking away is often entertained in the minds of many pastors and church leaders. Though we may experience many "wins" in our ministry, for some reason it's easier to focus on the "losses", the negatives, the complaints, the criticisms. We can hear nine wonderfully affirming comments and one negative one and for some reason, our minds and hearts dwell on that one negative comment. And it can be as superfluous as, "Your tie didn't match your shirt today, but it wasn't that distracting."

I'm inclined to believe that all pastors have thought of giving up at least once. And for some reason, I feel ashamed even thinking about the times I've thought about giving up. But we're not alone. The Bible shows leaders who were discouraged enough that they wanted to quit. Moses thought about quitting. As did Elijah. I'm sure David entertained the thoughts of running away during his reign.

Of course there might be times when God is calling us to move on, to step away, to step down. But in the seasons where I've felt dejected and discouraged with the desire to quit, I usually thought about making that decision without praying or conversing with God about it. Most of the time, it was something like, "I quit, and God please help me find another place to go." I'm thankful that I never acted upon those feelings because, looking back, God wasn't quite done with me.

I don't know what season of life or ministry you may be experiencing as you read these words. But I hope that you know that as much faith you may have in God, God has more faith in you. I believe that you are called to your ministry because God believes that you are the best partner possible for that ministry. My prayer for those who are discouraged in ministry is that you have the strength and courage not to fixate on all the negative comments flowing your way, but rather that your eyes and hearts are fixed upon Jesus — the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

If God is calling you to go, may you have the courage to heed God's call. If God is telling you to stay, may you have the courage and the strength to persevere as you stay. But take heart. God is for you and with you.

And "don't give up. People who changed the world never give up."

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