This year I have been writing about the character traits and skills of effective missional community leaders. I wrote about missional leaders being proactive, hospitable, generous, available, and attentive. This post will look at how missional leaders are persevering.
continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success.Missional leaders must be persevering because so often their work seems fruitless. Whenever I am feeling fruitless in my mission, I go back to read second Corinthians chapter 4.
Remember the Gospel
Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.
Bible study methods teach you to ask, “What is the ‘therefore’ there for?” In this case, it is referring back to the previous chapter where Paul describes the glorious nature of the New Covenant – the assurance of our salvation, the glory to come, and the miracle of salvation when God opens our hearts and then makes us more and more like Himself. So Paul “does not lose heart” when he remembers the incredible mercy God has had on him.
When we remember God’s grace on us, the miracle of our salvation, and the power of the gospel to change others like it has ourselves, then we are free to persevere through fruitless times full of joy and hope.
Realize the Battle is Spiritual
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
When people are not responding to the gospel, we need to remind ourselves that the battle is spiritual. In Paul’s day, when people were not responding to the gospel, some missionaries were tempted to use deception and flattery in order to manipulation a response. Paul could “renounce these secret and shameful ways (v.2)” because he knew it was not about his words or his methods. Ultimately the battle is spiritual.
When we recognize the battle as being spiritual, we’re less tempted to change our tactics and more convicted to persevere through prayer. Prayer is how we win the spiritual battle.
Rejoice in Weakness
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
This is the wonderful mystery of ministry. God uses broken people to carry His message to the world. The sufferings and rejections we face from others, if responded to in humility and gentleness, actually serve to open hearts to the gospel. When friends and family see our faithfulness, perseverance, repentance, and love in the face of difficulties they are more prone to believe. “Death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”
Part of persevering is continuing to love and respect those that reject us and our message. The very act of perseverance serves to advance the mission.
Reflect on Eternity
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
This, of course, is the ultimate key to persevering. When we have an eternal perspective, all of todays troubles seem “light and momentary.” Make no mistake about the mission. It is difficult. “Outwardly we are wasting away.” But when we consider eternity, our work is always well worth it.
Justin Christopher is the National Campus Director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Network and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.