I came into work this morning and noticed that the temperature is up quite a bit, and I’ve been feeling really Evangelistic for the past few weeks. My wife usually gets headaches at times like these.
This time two years ago our Church was given this awesome opportunity to collect food from a huge supermarket pretty much every day. Most days I would fill my van up with fresh produce and take it out into the streets near our Church and give it away to families that might not usually get Danish Pastries and stuff like that.
At the start of 2019, however, that sort of came to an end when we were given a couple of buildings in the city to work out of. My first thought was that we could have some space to make our operation bigger and more streamline, but looking back on it, I think God was taking us into a new season where he would be making more space for our Church to grow and become more streamlined, instead of a food outreach.
The evidence, in hindsight, was threefold. Firstly, we really struggled with volunteers to run these new centres at the same time as I was meant to be collecting the food. In all honest I was the only person collecting the food at this point and so I was becoming a bit tired. Secondly, when I did collect the food it wasn’t the same standard or quality that we had been given before. The original supermarket was giving us a whole lot less, and sometimes no food at all. Finally, a new supermarket who had offered to give us food was basically just giving us substandard rubbish and not much of it either.
It seemed as though this season had come to an end.
I’ve seen people try to get more out of stuff after it’s dead a lot of times. There’s an old saying about flogging dead horses. No matter how much you whip that thing it’s not going to run any faster.
We have to be aware of the seasons that we’re in and when they change.
It takes courage to start something new. It’s takes some real courage to keep on going when things get tough. It takes serious courage to drop it when the season of that new thing has come to an end.
In hindsight, I’m glad that the season of collecting food has come to an end. Today we’re in a new season of providing a much-needed library service to over 30,000 people. We have over 500 people use that service every week, which is maybe five times the amount of people we were serving with food. What’s more, we give free space to community groups to use our facilities. The aim is to bless our community and their networks with no strings attached. Where they might have paid £20 an hour to use a small room for a knitting group, we give them it for free. As it turns out, we don’t really have the volunteers to run all of these groups, and we don’t have the skills either. By allowing people who do have the skills to do it we provide so much more for the community than we are capable of as an organisation.
Sometimes people ask me why we give everything away for free. In hindsight we’ve found that where God guides he provides, and over the past year or so our income has tripled. Our venues cost £1 a year to lease as we’re providing a service to our authorities as well as to our community. We have lots more connections with the local community and people that are keen to be part of something bigger.
So, briefly, how do we spot a change in season?
The do nots:
- Don’t think that passion for something else means you are called to do that instead. That’s just a sign that you need to be more stable in your emotions.
- Don’t think that tiredness is a sign. That’s only a sign that you need better boundaries.
- Don’t believe that a lack of finances means that it’s not of God. We’ve never had money until now. Be cheeky and ask for free stuff. Find funding!
- Check the fruit is good. How many people are you connecting with and whether they getting closer to Jesus. If you’re a Pastoral type, how much more stable are the people near you? If you’re the Evangelistic type, are people attending other Evangelistic events or choosing to follow Jesus? If numbers are still good, then keep on going. If they drop off, it could be a sign that the seasons are changing.
- Check if you’re valued. Obviously, the people you are ministering to will value you. What do other leaders near you think? What do other organisations think about you? Sometimes you can provide a service for a while but you do such a good job that you make yourself redundant. That’s ok! Just stop, and then restart it when it’s needed again.
- Check for signs of the season to come. You know when Autumn is approaching because the leaves start to change colour with the sky. Maybe you have feeling that God is changing your life around in some way, or that he’s moving you in a slightly different direction. That’s great! What does the next season look like? Don’t fantasise but realise that change could be on its way.
- Take your time. There’s really no rush. Seasons changing are natural and don’t really take much effort. It’s life in motion. Things don’t die, they just go dormant for a while when the seasons change.
- Finally, get advice from people that have been in your situation before and come through it well. It’s no good asking someone how to treat athlete’s foot after they’ve had their foot amputated. Get advice from the doctor or the guy who still has both his feet.