In 2020, I set out with a goal to read 20 more books than I did in 2019. So, my goal for 2020 was to read a grand total of…20 books. Thankfully, due to quarantine and a very different rhythm of life, I was able to accomplish my goal, and I even made it to 29 books! The momentum I gained in 2020 carried over to 2021, and within the first week of this year, I’ve already finished two more books.
When I chose my first book for the year, I knew that I wanted to read something that would fire me up to pursue teenagers with the Gospel. I immediately thought of “Alongside: Loving Teenagers with the Gospel” by Drew Hill.
I settled down with a cup of coffee and began working through Alongside. With every new chapter, there were new insights for me. The wisdom was just what I needed to get my wheels turning about new ways to do ministry. There was a fresh presentation of Jesus’ ministry and how we can mirror it. It felt new to me, even though I have been working full time in ministry for the past 5 years.
One of my favorite quotes came toward the end of the book, and I believe it really speaks to the current situation in our world.
“It seems the Lord’s strategy isn’t just multiplication and community. It seems his strategy is patience. Jesus was never in a hurry. “– Drew Hill
A Period of Patient Waiting
When I stopped to process what I read, I was filled with a sense of comfort. Even though ministry has been challenging and slow in the past year, Drew’s words reminded me that challenging and slow is precisely how Jesus’ ministry was too.
Throughout Alongside, Drew talks about what Jesus did outside of the miracles that we usually speak about at club and Campaigners. You see, there were many moments in Jesus’ short ministry that we love to talk about, but there are also quite a few moments that we gloss over. I think (unintentionally) we desire to have a ministry filled with fast-paced, mountaintop moments, but realistically, ministry is actually much slower and the mountaintops are often lower. Ministry breakthroughs tend to happen after a period of patient waiting.
An example that Drew wrote about was the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11). Jesus was asked to come to Lazarus’ aid when he was sick, but Jesus waited. He was slow to go, and because of that, Lazarus died. When Jesus arrived, he mourned with Lazarus’ family and friends, but I’m sure that had to have been a frustrating experience for them:
- Why had Jesus waited?
- Why didn’t Jesus show up?
- Why did Jesus allow Lazarus to die?
- Is Jesus not who I thought he was?
To Jesus however, this was the moment to be patient. He didn’t rush in to save the day. Instead, he allowed himself to feel the real emotion of grief that humans feel so often. He sympathized with Lazarus’ family and friends. Then, he performed the death-shattering miracle of bringing Lazarus back to life.
In 2020, we were forced to slam on the brakes of ministry. 2021 isn’t off to a great start. We have patiently waited for schools to open back up. For football games to resume. For opportunities to proclaim the Gospel in smelly basements after an insane night of games and songs. This season of ministry has required and will continue to require great patience.
Continue the work of waiting, praying, and dreaming
We must continue the work of waiting, praying, and dreaming, because on the other side of this slow season in the valley is certainly a lifetime of mountaintop moments that will feel like nothing short of miracles. Remember in this season that there are kids who you will meet in a month, next fall, maybe a year from now, or even ten years down the road who will hear the Gospel for the first time through your words ands actions. They will fall in love with Jesus and, like Lazarus, be raised to new life in Christ. Your willingness to be patient and faithful during this painful season of ministry will pay dividends for generations to come. When we see those kids walking in newness of life like Lazarus, we will rejoice that the patience was worth it.
The miracle is ahead just ahead.