Many in church leadership get plagued by frustration, which is often accompanied soon after by discouragement when the fruit that we expect to see doesn’t materialise.
In fact it’s not just “leaders” who experience this, but anyone who wants something better for another person; that your friend will be receptive to the good news, that they will finally decide to come to church with you, that they will say “yes Lord”.
If that’s you, the good news is that you’re not alone! I, for one, identify with you. But so do some of the greats both from the bible and from more recent history.
I was reading Acts chapter 19 today and saw what a hard gig the great apostle Paul had. He had poured all that he had into unpacking the good news to anyone who would listen. After listening to him for three months, many refused to receive what he had to say, and so they closed off and refused to believe. Some ridiculed what he had to say, and finally they rejected him.
That was the pattern that happened in Paul’s ministry time and again. Who knows, Paul may have felt all kinds of emotions that you and I have felt. Perhaps frustration, discouragement, anger and sadness. But that wasn’t the end of the story.
Paul moved on and spent his time putting into those who were receptive; those who were open and keen to learn.
Acts 19:9,10 says it like this:
But when some were stubborn and refused to believe, reviling the Way before the congregation, he left them and took the disciples with him, addressing them every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all who lived in the province of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord. (New English Translation)
Paul moved on from this who didn’t want to hear so that he could spend his time with these hungry to hear people. They not only learnt themselves, but became carriers of the message to others, taking it with them wherever they went.
Some things that I learnt from Paul in this passage are:
1. Spread the message widely. I won’t know who will respond well and who will close off. Jesus taught this principle with the parable of the sower.
2. Some people will be receptive, others won’t. It’s a fact. Our responsibility is to spread the message so that people have the opportunity to vote yes or no.
This principle doesn’t just apply to receiving the good news, but to every area of life. Some people we may see heaps of potential in, but they frustrate us because they don’t do anything with it. When they have been given the choice, be prepared to let go, and move on and find people with ready and willing hearts.
2. Spend my time with those who are receptive and hungry to learn. If I spend my time trying to convince people who don’t really want o be convinced, I’ll go crazy with frustration, and then become discouraged. Even worse, the ones who are receptive and willing will be cheated of having my time and what I have top bring them.
3. Sharing with the right people should result in multiplication rather than just addition. I want to plant seeds that multiply, and so I need to spend my time planting seeds with this in mind. Of course not all seeds that I plant will grow to be fruitful in this way, but some will.
Personally, I don’t think that it gets much better than planting a seed that I then see bear fruit by planting other seeds.
So, how to avoid frustration? Look for those who are receptive and respond, and invest your best with them!