So what’s the antithesis of that worldly way of thinking? How do you combat that lifestyle? Be self-controlled. That’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Endure hardship, and there will be plenty in ministry. Self-control helps to endure. It goes along with patience and faithfulness which are also Holy Spirit fruit. Evangelize at every opportunity. I pray for those opportunities constantly. Sometimes I wonder if I’m missing them. It seems about everyone I run into here is a Christian. That’s a good chunk of the great commission. Carry out the ministry to which I am called. It’s the same root as deacon, having to do with voluntary service. I’ll serve somewhere, somehow, whether paid or not. Sometimes I wonder about endurance. My faith endures. I am staying faithful to ministry in general and don’t see that changing even if it somehow becomes all volunteer. I question myself sometimes after leaving GBC. Should I have just endured the hardship? But things tend to pop up to affirm how I left and why. I’d go back if called, if we could do the tough work together to get things right. I’m not giving up. I’m pursuing new ministry opportunities and wiser about what to choose and what to let pass me by. I pray the Lord makes it clear and grants more opportunities to share the gospel and gives me boldness to do so. That prayer yielded a bit of an opportunity at Thanksgiving and I pray that will go further.
It’s been a few days since I last wrote in the journal. We travelled up to Cincinnati and have kept pretty busy with family and meetings investigating church planting. The idea has really grown on both of us. That’s not to say it isn’t scary because it’s so different than having something steady with an established church or similar position, but the excitement really is overtaking the concerns. I’m not sure what the Lord has for us. The connections have been very interesting in this very fresh process. It’s seeming more feasible. I’m open the whatever God has in store, but right now this seems like the most intriguing option. It’s not lost on me that it’s the most recent thing I’ve looked into intensely, so it’s more prevalent on my mind. But in the midst of that intriguing development, on my birthday, we found out my sister likely won’t survive much past Christmas. I already lost my younger sister in 2011. This doesn’t seem right. I know people used to expect to lose multiple children, but it hasn’t been that way in my lifetime and culture. She doesn’t want to talk about it, and that makes things a little tougher on everyone else. It might make it harder on her, too, but I don’t know. I don’t remember what I was doing when Howard told Mom and Judith the news, but Judith told me as soon as we got a moment alone. I finally thought I was going to cry but the tears didn’t fully make their way out. I feel like what I really need right now after this difficult time of life, actually in the middle of it, is a good, long cry, but the tears just won’t come. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s too much stress or emotion all flooding together so it gets jammed up. Not everything is bad. Despite some difficulty to get to this point, looking toward the future of my career and calling is kind of exciting. But it’s a hard time for our family facing another loss. We’re pulling together, and that’s good. There are plenty of good times, but there is a constant heaviness still. I really want to be able to talk to my sister while she still can. She seems to be losing that ability steadily. I want to express my love and care for her and share some really good, deep times with her, but I also don’t want to force her into greater sorrow. I want to encourage her but it’s hard to know how. We’ll just do all we can to enjoy one another and just be together. 2 Timothy 3:1 And then Paul writes to Timothy that difficult times will come in the last days. But there have always been difficult times. Depending on one’s perspective it’s the times of the early church that seem more difficult. But there are more distractions and opportunity for sin and despair in an ever more divided world. People always seem to think we’re in the last days but the world continues on. Maybe that’s the case now, that there is still a lot of time, from our perspective, or maybe we really are close to the end. I’m for it. Just in our immediate circles it seems like we’re hearing about more and more sickness, disaster, death, and dismay. The attacks seem more frequent and heavy. Maybe it’s just my age. Paul describes today pretty well to Timothy. We are selfish, arrogant, and perhaps more adept at blasphemy than any generation before. Social media has amplified each, especially boasting. We worship children to the extent disobedience is taken nowhere near as seriously as it used to be. Discipline is increasingly limited. So much of the world has gained so much more affluence or at least access to new technologies that those things have become like rights for everyone. We constantly hear about some new right everyone has. So we’re more ungrateful than ever. It’s like we take everything for granted and don’t pause to be thankful for what we have. We’re entitled. Holiness is shunned, treated as wrong. People are growing more heartless and that sums up this list pretty well. We are quick to judge and never forgive. Twitter is like a platform for slander. If it feels good, go for it. Whatever you feel like you want to be has to be accepted, so yeah, self-control has gone out the window and to suggest it is necessary for anything other than keeping yourself from speaking out against obvious sin is the only sin anymore. The world hate righteousness. We love sin. We find pleasure in whatever is enticing at the moment and celebrate it. Sin city? And it is all just getting worse. Lord Jesus, come. Lord, reveal any of those ways or other You find offensive in me. Break my heart over them and change me and help me to graciously lead others in the same!
I’ve read some statistics and commonalities of different generations related to work and giving in the past few years that have led me to consider how we may need to change in churches to keep up with cultural changes in giving, both of time and finances. The boomer generation is known for taking pride in their achievement. They don’t necessarily live to work but do find great value in what that work accomplishes in wealth, possessions, and position. Many will work until they simply cannot any longer or at least until they can have very comfortable, even indulgent retirements. That’s a heavy generalization, but a summary of things I’ve read. Gen X will work hard, but they work to live more than live to work. Achievement is important but enjoying life is more valuable. I anticipate many in this generation will retire earlier than the previous generation if able so they can enjoy more of life unhindered by time constraints of work. They’ll need to invest well and earn earlier to accomplish this. I think we may see many from Generation X retiring not long after many boomers. Millennials want their work to matter. They aren’t as driven by financial achievement so much as believing that what they do matters. Yet they are also materially indulgent as other generations. This desire to be involved in important things impacts their giving, too. They tend to want to give to a cause or specific thing they believe in rather than an organization in general. Boomers will give larger amounts over more time. If Gen X retires not long after boomers, giving may decline significantly as incomes are lowered for two generations. Millennials may not earn as much across the board and are less likely to give to a general church budget or mission program than they are a specific need or missionary they know. They are, however, more likely to get involved in outreach ministry in the community whereas previous generations seem more likely to serve in their local church programs. The move from inside the church to outside appears to be increasing from generation to generation right now. So, we may have many people willing to serve in ad-hoc ministry events and trips in the community or even more regular opportunities like that, we’re likely to have less people ready to serve in volunteer ministry roles within the church building walls and less income to cover it all. So, how do we address this in the local church? Do we handle giving differently? Will we need to cut internal programming and staffing to be more efficient and outreach focused? Those aren’t all bad things, but they are things we need to prepare for and consider ahead of time.