We talk a lot about the spread of the gospel and the expansion of the kingdom of God. You could even say that this drives everything we do. So then anything that stands in the way of this endeavour could be seen as a serious threat. What are we to do then when the gospel itself gets in the way of our advancement of the gospel?
Just like when drilling a hole through a thick piece of wood you have to reverse from time to time in order to remove the shavings, the gospel doesn’t always move full speed ahead. If you don’t stop to remove the excess wood, you might as well stop drilling because you’re not going to get anywhere.
Sometimes the gospel moves fast and we can hardly keep up, other times it moves so slowly that we don’t even see the movement, but it can never move so fast that it compromises its integrity. This may seem rather obvious, we don’t after all want to compromise the gospel. Yet for many of us who pursue some formal type of ministry or find ourselves in the business of gospel advancement (Jesus’ business), we know all too well the temptation to get things to move a little faster. We can push harder and harder for the things that we really want to see – baptisms, people serving, new leaders, new churches, and the list goes on… At some point though we run into the resistance of everything that we’ve been pushing against.
When the gospel enters a person’s heart, a family, a neighbourhood or a city, it creates space for itself. But the things that were there before – the beliefs, the attitudes, the words, the habits – they have to go somewhere, and the process of getting rid of those things and replacing them with the gospel is usually a messy one. It takes time. It takes energy. Things are often broken or get broken in the process and need to be fixed. It requires patience, gentleness, compassion, healing, and this list goes on too. If we don’t embrace this element of the gospel, we will turn the gospel into something that it is not, and miss out on the most basic benefit – the transformation of the human heart.
I’m privy to two very distinct perspectives within my personal ministry. When I take a step back and see the leaders we’re developing and the new churches and missional communities that we’re starting, it seems like things are moving so quickly. But when I consider my role in leading people in one particular missional community to grow and mature and serve others, I realize just how much time and effort, prayer, patience, and faith are involved, day in and day out. Both are examples of the powerful movement of the gospel but you cannot have the first without the second.
Let’s never stop pushing the gospel forward into new spaces, but at the same time let’s make sure that it is the gospel that we’re pushing and not our personal ministry agenda. The Spirit is more concerned about his work of transformation than we are and we must learn to follow his lead – to be ready to move as fast as he wants but not to get ahead of him!