If you are involved with a church planting or missions movement you have likely heard this statement (or some variation of it) proclaimed from pulpits, blogs and ministry newsletters: “It takes faith to go!”
I certainly won’t argue with that. It does take faith to go! Especially in the difficult work of planting churches, campus ministries and other Kingdom oriented work. Nor is it easy to go away to college or take a job in another city. Yet sometimes going is exactly what God is calling us to.
It has been rightly said by many leaders that the American church is too comfortable. Many people need to get out their comfort zone and engage in greater sacrifice for the cause of Christ. With this generalization I wholeheartedly agree. With the resources of people, free-time and finances at our disposal in America it seems like we should be able to accomplish so much more if everyone was really engaged and passionate about accomplishing our mission.
However, is going the only way to do this? Is going where true faith is evidenced. Though God frequently calls people to go, that doesn’t mean that going is the only way to grow, or the only valid evidence of real faith. In my opinion, sometimes staying can be just as hard, if not harder, than going.
The newness involved in going has an inherent excitement about it that is attractive. Staying can seem boring and stale, especially in our society with it’s ever decreasing attention span. It takes focus and commitment to stick with the old, and to persevere in the “same old boring strokes” of day to day ministry in a context that has lost it’s newness. Though any ministry involving real live people is pretty action packed and “exciting”, building a well established ministry doesn’t exactly have the same excitement-factor as moving to a big city or foreign country to start something out of nothing.
Recently I was speaking to a friend from college and he seemed confused that I am still living serving in the same city that I have been for the past ten years, with no plans of leaving any time soon. Though he didn’t say so, I got the impression that he thought I was somehow missing out on bigger opportunities somewhere else.
I have had many friends and co-laborers in local ministry leave over the years to go and be a part of church plants and missions work in other parts of the world. The people who have gone out are doing some good things which are to be supported and celebrated! However, if we were honest about it, all the going over the years has created stress and increased work-load for those who have stayed. Staying and building takes perseverance and it isn’t always easy.
So what shall we say about going versus staying? Is one more strategic than the other? Is one more of a faith-builder than the other?
I really don’t think so. Both can be challenging and both can stretch a person’s faith. Yet, Biblical faith is simply obedience to God. Though the roles of who is going and who is staying may change depending on the times and seasons of God’s plan, there will likely always need to be some people going and other people staying and building in any missional context.
For everyone to leave would be abandonment, not kingdom advancement. For everyone to stay and no one to ever go would be to neglect the Great Commission and turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the lost and dying outside the current area of ministry.
Yet which role you are to play is between you and God. What is He calling you to do in this season of your life? Faithfulness to God is ultimately what counts.