The Scripture says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." Persistent disappointment, dashed expectations and seeing no end in sight to a struggle create apathy. Hope deferred sooner or later can sink listlessly into hope abandoned like a spent goldmine.. Apathy settles in for a long, cruel winter and resignation freezes everything to deadness. Apathy sucks.
Over the years as I struggled to find what it means to follow Jesus and help others do the same, I battled apathy, my own and theirs. And I do mean battled. It is a subtle, but obstinate foe. I have also seen it infect a church culture, muting its soul, inviting a "don't get your hopes up too much," to be a way of life. Apathy always looks for a way in and must be fought many times in the journey home.
I bet you have heard the disillusioned vernacular of apathy many times, including phrases like:
"They already tried that. It doesn't work."
"Oh, I've heard stuff like that before. Great idea, but not very realistic."
"I'm not sure you know what you're getting yourself into."
And my favorite:
"I guess .... sure, whatever."
Oh, then then there is that "You poor sob" look that comes across folks' faces who who were frustrated by dreams stymied or crushed. Their pain is real and their vision has become jaundiced by too many roadblocks. They let them go and settled.
So I fear that apathy can subtly infect the mission of planting a church in a tough place. Others have gone before and failed. They had the same aspirations, energy and hope...at first. They didn't listen to the naysayers and went at it with courage, faith and even skill. So why would I think launching imagine/northampton will have a ghost of a chance in succeeding where others haven't?
It is a bit hard to explain really. But I have this abiding sense we have been prepared for this mission since the day Tricia and I married. We have been tempered and seasoned by struggle, pressures, setbacks, disappointments, and living where Jesus had to be the last line of defense before disaster overtook us. We have been trained in the melting forge of lay ministry for decades. We have pioneered and built. We have created and equipped. We have fought the lies and traps of the adversary. We have seen Jesus powerful in the midst of powerlessness and human foolishness and cowardice.
We have also been witness to the spiritually blind seeing, the spiritually dead awakened, the captive freed, and the beaten down restored.
Our Leadership Team is gifted, seasoned, strong and resourceful. We know how to teach, counsel, create, produce, care for others and start from scratch. We love Jesus and are willing to follow him in this place.
Without Jesus, we know we are goners. But Jesus has us here. This place is hard, for sure...hard doing everything. But he said "Come" and we said "Yes, Lord."
We will fight to not let apathy steal our resolve if this all takes a while. We will not let it drain our blood or silence our hearts. We owe it to the people centuries, decades, years and months before us who fought the good fight with all their hearts here in Northampton. To do less because it is hard lets apathy rule the day. It mustn't.
So pray that we be courageous, resilient, wise, humble and joyful no matter the obstacles.
Also, where has apathy cooled your heart and convinced you that following hard after Jesus no matter is not really possible, or worse...not worth it? Really? Why?
Let me know what you think.