Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to preach at a church where a good friend serves as the pastor. He has been faithful to the people and they have been good to him. It is a small church that has the hopes of caring for the least in the community.
But like many small churches, they face a number of self-imposed barriers. They think every new person feels welcome but it is actually difficult to fit in. They probably think the building is easy to navigate but in reality it is a bit confusing. The believe the work of the church is best left to the professionals when God has it designed for every believer to be engaged in His mission. These are, sadly, all too common issues in churches across our country.
What was surprising to me was not the church or its problems or even its strengths. The surprise of the morning for me came in the form of a simple prayer offered by a church leader before the worship service. If you have served in ministry, you know that church staffs or worship teams often sit down to pray prior to a service. It is a good check for our egos and, oftentimes, the last minute plea to God for His presence to come thundering down upon the church.
On this particular morning, in a quiet side room, a young man I barely knew prayed this…
“God, help me to be burdened for your people instead of frustrated by them.”
Suddenly, a flood of memories washed through my heart and mind. I realized that I had been more frustrated than burdened a million times on a million days with a seemingly million people. Ugh – for a moment I felt so small and feeble and selfish. Time and time again we become frustrated by those who don’t help out, stand up, get on board, line up, go out, witness, sing, live missionally, live on mission, and on and on and on.
And then God surprised me even further. He was also gracious to to remind me of the burden His Spirit had birthed in me for the soul of people and their communities. I was reminded that there have been days when I was carried by His power and passion for my neighbors. And I remembered, being burdened is always better than being frustrated.
A great impact for God’s kingdom never comes by being frustrated by the world but burdened for men’s souls. But frustration comes more naturally to us. Born out of a selfish need to be justified in our actions and emotions, it displaces any burden for others. But with burden comes a connection to the very heart of Christ. When we live with burden, we stand beside Him as He stood over His city…
As He approached and saw the city, He wept over it, saying, “If you knew this day what [would bring] peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41-42)
God, help me be burdened for people and never frustrated by them. May we all weep for our city as Christ did. And then, after we have wept, go out and die for it.