“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” - Romans 12:12
Patience is a really good thing. I don’t know about you, but I love being around patient people. I love hanging out with those who don’t get irritated easily by the everyday annoyances of life or overreact to circumstance that are out of their control. There is a calming presence patient people have about them. I love it.
Here is the problem.
Practicing patience is something that most of us are not very good at. It is also not something we celebrate and value in our culture. We live in a day and age where we can fly anywhere in the world, download the newest music, record all kinds of TV shows or movies, and quite literally get ahold of almost anyone, anywhere in the world, whenever we want. As far as the world is concerned, what is the point of pursuing patience in our lives? It seems foolish!
Albert Mohler writes,
“Most of us recognize that patience is one of the cardinal Christian virtues—we’re just in no hurry to obtain it. Others just define patience as a delay in getting what we want. As Margaret Thatcher once famously remarked: “I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.” In today’s fast-paced society and self-centered culture, patience is quickly disappearing, even among Christians.”
Likewise, Sam Storms rightly notes,
“No one comes by patience naturally. No one instinctively responds to adversity and interruptions without at least some measure of irritation and anger. No one encounters opposition to one’s plans without some degree of agitation and frustration. Patience, to put it simply, is counter-intuitive. It is not something with which we are born. It is, instead, a work of God’s grace in the human heart, a fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives.”
When it comes to our work of church revitalization, patience is a fruit that we as pastors desperately need the Holy Spirit to grow in us. Stepping into a struggling church, we will immediately find ourselves loving very tired, perhaps burned out and very discouraged folks. Moreover, we will need to be constantly discerning how best to lead within the framework of old systems, structures, and traditions that have shaped the culture of this church for many, many years. To rightly love and lead in a context like this, we will need patience that can only come from the Lord Himself.
We must remember that healthy change takes patience because healthy change takes time. Congregations are made up of individuals. And for change to happen in an entire congregation, it is dependent on change taking place in the lives of those who make up the congregation. This doesn’t happen overnight. It often takes a great deal of time.
Patience is needed to help people experience true, Gospel change in their lives. I was just recently visiting with a man who has been a pastor in the same church for many years. Almost every week, for eighteen straight years, he has intentionally met with and poured his life into one particular young man in his church. For most of these years there has been very little fruit, which has led to seasons of great discouragement for my friend. However, just recently, after eighteen years, my friend shared how God has begun to do unbelievable things in this young man’s life, though he isn’t so young anymore! In our time together, I could tell my friend was deeply encouraged and thankful for the Lord’s faithfulness after all of these years. I share this because it is a great example of the kind of pastoral patience we must develop as church revitalizers if we are to be effective shepherds of God’s people through the ups and downs that are sure to come over the years.
Mohler, Albert Patience is Not Optional for the Christian. Albert Mohler Nov 11, 2015 https://www.ligonier.org/blog/patience-not-optional-christian/
Storms, Sam . http://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/why-patience-doesnt-come-naturallyaccessed through Monergism.com