Last summer I felt in a slump—a general lack of passion for ministry. It was around this time that I was introduced to the book “Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion” by Pastor Wayne Cordeiro. The book is his story of how, when he found himself depleted after about 30 years of ministry, he took time to recharge and refocus on what is truly important. Toward the very end of the book, he discusses potential. We usually associate potential with young people. We think of them with their life ahead, their gifts and talents, lots of opportunities, and we look forward to how God will use them. They have potential!
This, however, is not the group Pastor Wayne is addressing in his book. He is referring to people who have been in ministry a long time. Some may feel depleted. Some may need to take time to refocus. Perhaps it is time for them to make some changes. At any rate, he challenges this group of people to rediscover their potential.
This was a revolutionary thought to me! I had not thought that at this stage of life (with nearly 30 years in ministry) I perhaps still had untapped potential! This was exciting, and I believed that God was preparing me to receive something that He was going to show me.
Throughout the fall, there were a few times when I wondered: is this the “new thing” that God has for me? By and large, though, things did not change a whole lot. During these months, I reflected a lot on the past term. I thought about some of the ministries I no longer had. Sometimes I became rather discouraged. I began to question my effectiveness, my usefulness, and my ability to continue to make positive contributions. I began to think that I had read too much into the whole thing about potential! This focus on myself kept me from seeing God’s blessings and what He was doing.
If this were a TV drama series, this would be the end of the episode, so that we would only have to dwell on the problem for just a little while. So often we move quickly to how God rescued us, to His faithfulness in providing a way out. I do not minimize that! He is faithful, and He does rescue us. However, when we are in a difficult time, the pain is real, and I do not want to minimize that either. Those times are hard, but they are not wasted.
One of the things God taught me last fall was the importance of continually returning to Him. My pain and discouragement were opportunities to hold on to who He is and to express my faith in Him. I still wondered how He was going to use me, but gradually I was able to release that and leave it up to Him. In fact, He reminded me of something I had written in my journal many months earlier! It was this: ‘Here I am God. Use anything.’ God decides if, how, and when He will use my gifts. By saying this, I’m not focusing on just one area, or one question, but I’m giving God permission, so to speak, to give me a broader vision, to change me in greater ways. I make myself available to be surprised by God!
Several weeks later, the leaders of our organization had a “vision retreat” at which we experienced God’s leading, unity, and what we believe to be the direction to fulfilling His vision for us in greater ways. What I was experiencing personally prepared me for what God would do in us corporately.
God has restored my passion. He has not answered all my questions yet, but I commit myself to once again seek Him, and to demonstrate faith that honors Him. In some ways this takes me back to where I was last fall—waiting on Him and trusting Him, especially when His ways and His blessings do not look the way I expect them to look.
Question to consider: What are ways you see God restoring your passion?