I don’t know about you, but I want to be part of leading a ministry that’s on the move. I want to be part of leading a ministry that’s being used by God to change the world around me.
So, what do you do when it seems like your ministry isn’t going anywhere? What do you do when your ministry hits a plateau? For many of us, we probably pull out our notes from the last conference we went to or maybe we pick up a book on church growth. Before you do that though, I want to suggest you first ask yourself 3 questions that might help you diagnose why your ministry isn’t moving.
First we must establish this—there is no life or movement in the church or among God’s people except in the Holy Spirit. There’s no spiritual life (John 3:5-6), there’s no power to be actively involved in God’s mission (Acts 1:8), there’s no love for Jesus, no love for His Word, no conviction that leads to repentance, no love for the Church except in the Holy Spirit (John 14-16). We can do nothing apart from the Spirit (John 15:5), we can’t even confess Jesus as Lord apart from the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). The only way the gospel will spread, the only way the church will move, the only way people will be changed is by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The word spirit is the word pneuma in Greek. Pneuma can also be translated as breath or wind. Have you ever been on a sailboat? I’ve been on a lot of boats, but I’ve never been on a sailboat. I’m an observant guy though. All sailboats that don’t have wind in their sails have one thing in common … they’re not moving!
To have no wind is to have no movement. Look at what happened to the disciples in Acts 2:1-4 (ESV): “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…” When the wind came, it caught their sails and sparked a movement of God. It wasn’t until the wind came that the movement began! Read the rest of Acts if you don’t believe me.
To have no wind is to have no movement. In the same way, apart from the Holy Spirit, there will be no movement. But go back to the idea of a sailboat and consider this: there can be a lot of wind and the sailboat can be in the water, but there can still be no movement. I want to show you 3 ways that’s possible:
First, your sails might not be up. Just because your sailboat is in the water, doesn’t mean it’s moving. You have to put the sails up! If your ministry is the boat and the Holy Spirit is the wind, then prayer is the sails. Read Luke 11:13. God promises to give when you ask. Put your sails up! What were the disciples doing in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit came and sparked the movement? They were praying. Their sails were up and ready to catch the wind. So many ministries and so many people are sitting there with their sails down trying to use programs, events, and gimmicks to power their boat but they’re going nowhere. We’re trying to paddle when what we need to do is raise the sails. Stop relying on your own abilities and rely on God’s power.
Are your sails up? Maybe your ministry isn’t moving because your sails aren’t up.
Second, your sails might be up, but maybe your boat is docked. In college, I loved to go to the docks at the nearby lake and look at all of the big house boats. They were awesome! I found it odd though that some of the owners hardly ever took their boats out. After getting to know some of the owners, I realized they were afraid of messing up their big boats.
What’s the point of having a boat if you never take it out on the lake? Some of us are like boats that are docked. We’re afraid to take risks. We’re paralyzed by our fears. Think about it, if your sails are going to be filled with the wind of the Holy Spirit then you have to be willing to submit to going where the Holy Spirit leads. So many of us never leave the dock, because we’re afraid of where the wind might take us.
Are you docked? Maybe your ministry isn’t moving because you’re yet to leave the dock.
Third, maybe you’re hung up on rocks. A boat won’t go anywhere if it’s hung up on rocks. Some boats will sink if they get hung up on rocks. Sin, lurking underneath the water, can bring a ministry down. Often, sin that hasn’t been dealt with is the reason for no movement.
It’s very possible that the winds of the Holy Spirit are swirling all around you. Could it be that you’re not seeing any movement because your ministry is hung up on some rocks?
Austin Wadlow serves as the college pastor at First Baptist Church in Denton, TX. He teaches at a weekly Bible study called Overflow (overflowdenton.org) as well as for other camps and retreats. You can connect with Austin via Twitter: @austinwadlow