Many years ago we were visiting with some friends in their home having dinner. His father, who was a Pastor, happened to be there also. Of course, the conversation turned to the ministry. We were young, successful, and enthusiastic about our first church plant, actually, it was our first ministry. The Pastor asked my husband, “To what do you attribute the rapid growth of your Church?” Phil answered, “I preach expository sermons.” He responded, “Brother, that’s been done before!”
I’ve never forgotten that comment. How many of us are doing everything right and things are just not working according to plan? You pray, preach and tend the flock, but they are just not responding with the growth, enthusiasm, or regular church attendance you’d expected to see.
Your services are well put together and they love them when they’re there, but you find yourself exhausted trying to keep up with it all.
Summertime means vacations for everyone but you, so you never know who’s going to show up.
The offering goes down as the summer goes on. You start feeling guilty that perhaps you’re not doing something right. Maybe there’s sin in the camp? Why is God not blessing? These are questions you ask yourself and your core team. Why is this work not growing?
Stay with me here….
On our property, we are fortunate to have lots of animals. We also have a pond full of fish: carp, koi, bass, and bream. I like seeing the animals and I like seeing the fish, but for me, the best thing of all is the ducks that live here permanently. When I have the opportunity, I really enjoy watching them. We’ve had a rotating bunch for many years now, so I’ve had ample time to observe their habits.
What can you learn from a duck?
1. These ducks are not the brightest.
They lay their eggs in all sorts of inappropriate places and are usually broken open by other birds almost immediately. Sometimes the eggs are not fertilized & sometimes they’re cracked. I cannot protect them all the time and I cannot make the eggs hatch.
When they do choose a somewhat hidden spot to lay their eggs, we inevitably find the nest destroyed by a predator. Unless I’m willing to stay up all night for 28 days, there’s nothing I can do about it; or, the duck gets killed while sitting on the nest.
2. They have a creek and a large pond in which to swim and feed, but they still cross the street looking for more food.
I’ve gone after them many times, trying to prevent them from getting killed by passing cars, to no avail. Most times cars watch out for them, but over the years we have lost quite a few.
3. When we buy new ducks, to replenish the flock, I’ve noticed that they will not mix with the old ones; they remain separate.
4. They’re constantly bickering over food and mating.
5. They are very, very, wary, and are always on the alert for predators: foxes, coyotes, stray dogs, hawks & snapping turtles, etc.
6. Sometimes they come running from all around the pond when I feed them; other times they ignore me.
These ducks are a lot like a new congregation.
You can feed them, give them a great environment and pray fervently for them, but you can’t make them reproduce. You can’t make them grow. You can’t make them stay. You can’t make them stop quacking!
After almost 40yrs. in the ministry, 6 new church plants and 2 replants I can tell you that we’ve done the same approach – spiritually feeding and tending the flock in every place. Some of the churches have grown beyond belief and some haven’t.
If you are in the place where God has chosen to bless, praise God. If, however, you’re doing all you can do and your results are poor…remember Hab. 3:17-19 “Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, through the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, thought the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.”
When David’s family was in Ziklag and he was away on military maneuvers the enemy captured and burned his home and took all the women and children captive. David wept till there was no more in him. His once-loyal men even spoke of stoning him. David’s first impulse should be ours’ in a moment of trial. 1Sam. 30:6 “But David strengthened himself in the Lord.” Eventually, God restored it all, but in that dark moment, there was nothing else he could do.
God knows where you are.
Be faithful and strengthen yourself in the Lord.