Have you ever had an idea and you felt so strongly about it, but then when you share it, it all goes downhill? Have you ever been in church and leading your ministry and the people you are leading don’t like where you are going? I read this story this week, and it really caught my attention in a new way.
It’s in Acts 7 and it says this: 54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
This story always used to be so simple to me. That people that follow Jesus could get persecuted, etc, etc. After working in the church for a while and in ministry forever, this story takes on a whole new meaning for me. While in church, I experienced this over and over again. You seek Jesus and you feel that you see Him, you have a vision for what you want, you spend the time, and then the people you’re leading don’t trust it, don’t like it, or simply don’t like you and disagree. This ruins every bit of the creative process. It turns into pleasing people instead of pleasing God and seeking Him. Maybe at some point you’ve been the one throwing the stones. I don’t know what role you play, but sadly both are unfortunate. The church and following Jesus is supposed to be one of the most free, and creative places to work in, because we have the best message to tell people about. In my years of ministry, I have found that getting rid of the religious people in my life, the ones who love rules and can’t think outside of the box, has been the best for me. Now when I come up with an idea, it’s not stones that are thrown, but realistic ideas, love and energy. That’s how church should be, and that’s how life should be. If you are a stone-thrower, today is your day to grow up and support people and understand that things can be done differently and they have to, because the message has to be told differently, because everyone hears differently.
The way Stephen handles this gives us the textbook way to handle this, even though mostly it is so hard, so unfortunate for the human race.
"59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep." Always pray for help, and pray for forgiveness.
Communication with God is essential, largely because most of the time you can’t trust people around you (pastors apparently don’t struggle to most congregation members), but also he can help guide and direct you. Most of us can't pray for Jesus to take our spirit, if so I'll give you Zoloft, it'll be ok, but we can pray for patience in the midst of what we're facing. Church will always be the same, there will always be someone, so if you decided to work in ministry, welcome to it! He also prayed for their forgiveness in the midst of this moment when they are against him. Never be the one to pick up the other stone and throw back, as hard as it is. Your character is more important than your idea. On the other hand, sometimes your people and leaders can be creatively rearranged to make your life better. Lead well and let your ideas flourish and I guarantee some around you won’t support it, but continue anyways and live life with those who want to be there and support you.