In this (late!) update from week 7 of my internship, I’ll be reflecting on what it means to live by faith when it comes to the challenge of resources in church ministry, as well as on the subject of submission that was covered in last week’s Richard Foster chapter.
Last week I was really wrestling with the subject of finances and fundraising regarding church, so it’s probably no coincidence that the chapter of the week in Bill Hybel’s Courageous Leadership was about the resource challenge. I do struggle, though, because the sort of people he describes who are willing to give and the challenges he faces are very different from rural ministry in the Church of England. It would be easy enough to talk about casting a vision, giving something people to buy in to and so on, but these are much harder subjects to consider when there’s a £20,000 bill because there’s a hole in the roof or a toilet project that is stalled (as is the case in my churches), as these are much more mundane costs and don’t always involve people who are super enthusiastic about building the Church.
It can be easy to forget about these problems because most people find themselves in cities and towns, but the reality is that there are a lot of buildings all over this nation that represent ‘a christian presence in every community’ that need to be maintained, and can’t simply be closed down or altered easily because of their status as listed buildings. A big challenge facing the established church in our nation today is how best to use and manage these properties, because for many congregations, ‘the resource challenge’ is more than a leadership challenge; it’s the difference between whether or not they can afford to have the heating on in their building with a dwindling church attendance and quickly evaporating resources.
So what does this say about what it means to ‘live by faith?’. Well I’ve often heard this phrase used as an excuse not to do the hard work of living faithfully, budgeting and saving and doing our best. And whatever it means, it definitely isn’t this. Looking at the instances in the Old Testament where this phrase occurs, it’s about the people turning to God and living a life of faith with conditions and practices that reflect that faith. Not about some blind dependence that means we don’t do anything for ourselves. So at it’s heart, I think living by faith is about having an attitude that we’re in God’s hands and are upheld by him. So in everything we do, we seek to do it to the best of our ability. But when things go wrong outside of our control, we know that we’ve done all that we can and that our faith will help us to stay afloat as things seem to go wrong around us.
As for the second subject I said I’d cover, that of submission, the areas that Josie gave us to consider were the human longings that need to submitted to God: Eternity, purpose, love, belonging and power. I think this is such an important subject as Richard Foster notes that it takes away our need to always be in control. In particular, I can struggle with issues of belonging and power. Belonging occurs when I tell myself that I know better than God and allow myself to feel insecure rather than accepting the truth of what he says about me, and power occurs when I allow myself to be stressed and blown around by things that are outside of my control. Even over this last week, I’ve found that as soon as something doesn’t go to plan or takes longer than I had expected, I can get very nervous and start tensing up. Actually, what I need to do is breathe and let God give me peace in those situations. That’s what a life of faith is about, and in this job a lot of faith and submission to God is certainly needed.