It is one of the cornerstones of missional theology. I have heard it a thousand times and have said it a hundred times myself. “This is God’s work, not ours. We simply join Him in what he is already doing.”
Early on, I found that bit of theology exciting, freeing, exhilarating even. I could jump in and connect with what was already there. I did not have to worry about initiating anything or carrying the responsibility to create something out of thin air. God is at work! Pressure off!
I’ve been doing this a few years now, and can I confess something? I do feel like I need to initiate. I do take on the responsibility to create something out of nothing. I regularly succumb the pressure to make something happen, to have a deep conversation with someone about spirituality and faith and God. I flounder when it seems ministry has stalled. A sense of urgency rises within me- surely ministry must produce growth, so where is it? I lay awake at night and wonder what God is doing when it has been weeks or months since I’ve seen any evidence of faith among the people at the neighborhood hangouts. I doubt that God is at work and that all I have to do is join Him in whatever He is up to in my community. I doubt it.
The fear and doubt are connected to measureables, which are always a challenge in ministry. How do you measure a successful journey with God, or a successful ministry among messy human beings, done by messy human beings? What is my timetable and what are my expectations, exactly? Transformed businesses, mass repentance, healings and reconciliations…right now? If that is what I am looking for, am I willing to surrender to God? Because I realize I will only become more frustrated and anxiety-ridden if I hang onto my expectations and refuse to lay them before the One who is God. He may or may not share my goals or be on my timetable.
I don’t think the key is to have no expectations or to forget measureables. Honestly, for a driven personality like mine, that would be nearly impossible. What I am beginning to do is to name my expectations regularly, to actually write them down and toss them in a jar. I can only release and surrender what I name.
“So here they are, God… these are my hopes and expectations, my dreams and visions. This is what I think it would look like if You showed up. This would be success! But you are God, and I am not. Your will be done.
I’ll just keep showing up.
I’m committed to the long haul.
Help me to trust you more.
Recreate my expectations.
Adjust my measure of success.”