This past week was truly challenging. It gave me deeper insight into Philippians Chapter 4:10-16.
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. 14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only;16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.
Coming off a HIS-toric Easter where 33 were baptized God gathered 380 people from the North, South, East, and West I found myself tired and feeling alone. I squeezed five days of work into two and a half days and headed off to a conference for church planters in Orlando. 4000 church planters came together from around the country and speakers came from around the world. I went to the conference for spiritual renewal and retreat. I went alone because I really believe that before you can lead others you also have to lead yourself. Being alone was awesome because I was able to follow Jesus and get away to a solitary place and pray to get alone with God. Being alone was not so awesome in other ways it caused a deep sense of loneliness I felt alone in a conference surrounded by 4000 other believers. Kind of ironic to feel alone in such an amazing environment. I listened to stories about two pastors who recently committed suicide even though everything on the outside looked great. They were successful church planters/ pastors yet inside they were lost, alone, and hurting. To be brutally honest that scared the crap out of me! Can you say crap in a blog? Oh well I just did. Church planting is a lonely journey especially when you have detractors and have been isolated from your denomination. Luckily I have learned a very valuable lesson from scripture and from life, everyone needs accountability and true authentic relationships. I thank God for my brothers in Christ John M., Ed A., Glenn B., and Tom C. from all over the country. They seem to call just at the right time. I thank God for my brothers in my city who walk with me and provide accountability and friendship you know who you are. I thank God for the Trustees of COAH for their faithfulness and dedication to Jesus and me. I thank God for a praying church who lifts their pastor up daily in prayer. I feel their prayers and it strengthens me. Just this morning I had the Ministry Team from COAH gather around me in spontaneous prayer and it strengthened me.
The deeper perspective I received from the Philippian letter is Paul shares his hardships and his troubles. He doesn’t try to be superman. He is brutally honest with the church. He shares his hurts and his brokenness and thanks them for being there for him when no one else would. [vs 15] We always hear verse 4:13 quoted for sporting events but it comes right out of Paul’s testimony. On a week I should have been flying high I was brought low feeling drained and excruciatingly lonely. But I have learned to be content in all circumstances. You can not strike deep into the heart of darkness and expect to be left alone. The only way I know how to lead is by example as I follow Christ. My loneliness this week was interrupted by the grace of God with beautiful times of refreshing and fellowship with my Savior Jesus. My loneliness was interrupted by God with confirmation that my life and City on a Hill Church on right in the middle of God perfect pleasing will. My loneliness was interrupted with bright hope for tomorrow and dreams of the future winning our city for Jesus. My loneliness was interrupted with a commitment to be sure that others don’t have to walk this journey alone save for planned times of solitude with God.
I am reminded of a old song by Roy Orbison that says,” Only the lonely know the way I feel tonight.” I find comfort knowing that Jesus knows what it feels like to be lonely. I find comfort knowing that God uses my story for His glory and that my loneliness can used as leverage by God to help, heal, and bring hope to others. However the only way that it can be used is if I share it rather than hide it. If I am brutally honest with myself, my accountability partners, my discipleship brothers, and my church family. Paul starts in verse 10 saying he rejoices in knowing that people have great concern and love for him and that alone revives him. Even though I was excruciatingly lonely this week I was truly and greatly revived knowing that I have a loving wife, a church family, and close friends praying for me, loving me, and supporting me. My prayer and hope is that by being truly transparent we can change our city to the glory of God. Even if people say, “This guy shares too much.” I will not be moved or silenced. I refuse to carry this burden alone and I refuse to let others carry their burdens alone. We were made for community and fellowship in good times,. bad times, and indifferent times. I pray that every believer, church planter, pastor, and person who reads this blog listen and learn that we truly can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. Loneliness is a part of the journey that is a given. Leadership is lonely. However, the length of time you spend in loneliness is determined by your willingly to be transparent and honest. Even if it means looking weak. I truly believe it takes more courage, strength, integrity, character, and intestinal fortitude [guts] to admit we need each other. I love you all I hope that you know that. I pray John 17 over my life, my church, and the churches in our city daily. To those other pastors in this city that take the time to fellowship with me and others in the faith I say thank you. You refresh me.