I will forever be grateful for Nicky Gumble’s line in Alpha Leader Training:
“Alpha is probably the most disappointing thing you’ll ever do.”
It was strangely encouraging and helped me and others persevere through leading the Alpha Course. When few showed up the first day, and fewer after that – rather than dwelling on the question, “what are we doing wrong”, we were able to say, “we knew this was coming. Is there anything we need to do?” When the conversations didn’t go great, when arguments went wrong, when know-it-alls kind of took over, we thought to ourselves, “Oh, this is what he was talking about.” And when prayer-ministry seemed to lack power, when prayers for people went unanswered, and when nothing overtly exciting happened on the weekend away- well, we were disappointed, but we were warned. Alpha was one of the most disappointing things we’d ever done.
But it was also one of the best. I remember Alpha quite fondly – mainly because we didn’t give up. If we’d given up, I would never have heard Bruce confess: “I love this church, and I’m grateful to be able to talk about all this.” And directly as a result of Alpha, we met a woman named Amy, and I had the privilege of hearing her say, “I’ve decided to follow Jesus. I have become a Christian.” And because we persevered through disappointment in Alpha, a number of people just grew personally and spiritually. An elderly man said that his faith made sense for the first time in his life. A woman discovered new ways to pray. The Holy Spirit was no longer the “forgotten member of the trinity” in our fellowship. And people started reading their bibles. The people we served were grateful.
I’ve thought about Nicky Gumble’s words this week in terms of missional living and my own efforts at discipleship. I have felt some disappointment in the last couple of weeks. I won’t go into specifically, because discipleship as we do is following Jesus while encouraging others to do the same, so it is life-on-life and very personal. But a couple experiences have made me wonder, “Am I doing this wrong?” But this morning, I am stealing Nicky’s words: This approach to discipleship is one of the most disappointing things you could ever do.
But there’s nothing better. I love the hearts of my people – for they are loving their families, neighborhoods, and our city like Jesus and are beginning to see some traction in their own work of encouraging others do the same. And, I think, God is using our, and specifically my own, familiarity with disappointment in ministry as a way to encourage one another.
Hebrews 10:25 calls us to gather regularly to spur one another on to love and good deeds. Do it! Get with the people who can put some steel in your spine! The work is too important and the need is too urgent to allow disappointment to bring it down.
May you be encouraged today! Live like Jesus would if he were in your place! Don’t give up!