Can I ask you a vulnerable question? Have you ever failed? Of course, you have. Who hasn’t, right? I’m sure most of us have all had moments of despair and failure. Beyond our failure, there is a worse feeling. Know what it is? Admitting you failed. Beyond that, is having to realize that you can’t. Admitting that you simply do not have the strength, the knowledge, or the ability to succeed.
This feeling overwhelmed the disciples in Mark 9. A man brought his demon-possessed and suffering son to Jesus’ disciples. Despite their best effort, the disciples were unable to bring him any relief. The disciples had been sent, been commissioned, and given special ability by the Lord to labor in His work. Yet, this ministry opportunity left the disciples with the familiar and humbling reality of their own inability. You know the story. The disciples then come to Jesus and ask, “Why could we not cast it out?” Jesus responded, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
We aren’t told of any response from the disciples, but I think we all know the feeling. It was probably something of a mix between sadness, guilt, foolishness, and failure. Maybe they were convicted over their lack of prayer. Perhaps they felt foolish for assuming they had power within themselves to begin with. Better still, maybe they were reminded of the sovereignty and power of God. That’s the true humbling yet encouraging nature of our failure. To know you can’t, but God can! Maybe you’ve never known of any encouragement in your failure, but there is something even in our inability that ought to remind us of the Lord’s sovereignty and might in all circumstances.
The scripture reminds us of this in many ways, and I’m sure you know them - “with man it is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God” (Matt 19:26) “Now unto him who is able to do far more than we can ask or think….”(Eph 3:20) “What the enemy means for evil, God means for good.”(Gen 50:20). We can go on and on.
Can I be honest with you for a moment? I’ve recently had one of those moments of failure, and the Lord used it to remind me of his faithfulness. I’ve served in ministry now for close to 15 years. I’ve known it to be a very hard but rewarding vocation. Most recently, I’m serving as the Senior Pastor of a church revitalization effort in Fayetteville, TN at Prospect Baptist Church. I’ve served here for a little over a year now and look forward to the future in serving as their pastor for many years to come. We have seen the Lord move in some incredible ways. I can truly say the Lord has made a way, when, quite honestly, there seemed no way possible. That said, it has also been extremely difficult. Honestly, it’s been more difficult than I ever imagined. There is a weight of pastoring that only pastors can understand. That is all the more true in a revitalization effort.
When I came to pastor Prospect Baptist, I came to a church who recently self-assessed themselves as a church in need of revitalization during the pastor search process. In fact, the church was faced with a grim reality that if the downward trajectory continued, the church would be forced to close its doors within a decade. This is the sad reality for most churches today whether they realize it or not. Some statistics say as high as 80% of churches are plateaued or are in decline. This may come as a surprise to some people, but it won’t to many. Just look around. Many churches are sick today and are far from a New Testament model of the church. My prayer for Prospect, and I believe God’s will for Prospect, is that she would reclaim the rich truths, practices, and distinctives of a healthy church. This is no easy task and one that no man can accomplish!
For far too long, churches have opted to build off of faulty foundations. In short, we have sought to build churches on the efforts of human ability rather than the power of God. Churches are not and cannot be built on programs, personalities, or pragmatism. Could the health lacking in the church today be due to the ineffective attempts of human efforts to build the Lord’s church? I submit to you that is precisely what lies at the heart of the problem within many churches today. Know this, beloved, the Church of the Lord Jesus is built and can only be built on the foundation of Christ and according to His word.
The first statement out of my mouth when I arrived at Prospect Baptist was this - Psalm 127:1 “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” I knew that the work before me was too difficult for me to carry in my own strength. I knew that I simply was not savvy enough, not skilled enough, not creative enough, not strong enough, or able enough to “move the needle,” and certainly could not fabricate some “spark” quick enough to satisfy the expectations of others. I also knew that the Lord was leading us in a direction that would be “against the grain” of what most have experienced within the local church. Yet, if the statistics above are true, that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. In fact, it may even indicate we are moving in the right direction.
Truthfully, I never desired for anything to be built on myself or any man, for it would surely crumble if that were true. Yet, tucked away in my mind and heart through years of godly men who invested, taught, and trained me was the reality that THE LORD WILL BUILD HIS CHURCH. So, I endeavored to that end, and I continue to that end and will continue on towards this purpose.
So here I am a year in, and this is what I’ve realized - every ounce of doubt about my ability was and is 100% correct! In the past year, we’ve experienced both “ups” and “downs.” We’ve seen the Lord adding to and taking away from our church. We’ve seen some great moments of rejoicing and moments filled with great pain. We have seen sin grow, and we’ve seen the Lord bring about true repentance. We’ve seen hearts softened by His word and other hearts hardened by His word. In it all, I know this to be true: The Lord is building His church. And in that, I rejoice.
Even still, church revitalization is hard, hard work. Here is what I also know to be true. It will not happen except through prayer and the power of God. So, this petition is for you. I need all who will and wish to partner with me to pray for Prospect Baptist and for me as I pastor them according to truth, and for us to become a healthy New Testament Church. The last three weeks I have been greatly encouraged in the direction and unity within our body. Would you pray that would continue? Just two weeks ago, I prayed over and for each of our deacons and their families in a Member’s Meeting. Several members commented on the Spirit’s movement among us in that meeting. It was truly a sweet hour of prayer, and I’m so thankful for these men in our church!
Yet, there is more prayer needed. So, what I purpose to do is to keep you informed of various prayer needs for myself and for our church. I simply ask you to commit to praying for those needs. Perhaps you lead a Sunday school class at your church. I would love for them to join us in praying for us. Perhaps you are a pastor and want to encourage your church to pray for us corporately or through your prayer ministry. What a gift that would be! Maybe you just want to stay connected to the ministry the Lord has entrusted me with. In my time in ministry, I know that the Lord has blessed me in knowing many godly people and prayer warriors. Can I humbly say, “I need you!” We need you! We need you to pray. We need the Lord to move - For the glory of God and the furthering of His kingdom. I can labor, but in my failure and weakness, it will be to no avail. We need God to build His church among His saints at Prospect Baptist.
I’m committed to see the process of revitalization take place here in Fayetteville. I know the Lord can do it, and I truly believe He will. We’re already seeing Him begin this work, even now. We are slowly becoming a healthy church. I believe that will continue, but the Lord will have to do it, no man can accomplish this work. Only God can build His church. Would you join me to pray to that end?
If so, please sign up using the link below. In 2022 I purpose to send out a prayer update each week with one specific prayer request for our church. In addition, I will also link to our sermon podcast so you can stay in touch with how things are going in the life of the church. Finally, from time to time, I will also link to other resources that may encourage you as well.
Thank you for your consideration! And thank you for your prayers!
So, as we conclude; the next time you are tempted in your failure to the point of despair, be reminded of the sovereignty and power of God to accomplish what you cannot.