I have picked up a new book in recent days. It is Beeley’s Leading God’s People. Listen to this excerpt:
what ultimately moves people into a deeper life in Christ is not personal charm, social connections, or managerial expertise, no matter how useful they may seem in the short term. Instead it is the real and palpable holiness of a leader steeped in the grace of Christ.
That’s the measure we need to be looking to grow in. The rest is only window-dressing, friends. Yet steeping in grace for holiness’ sake, peaceful though it sounds, is a battle. It’s a fight for our souls and for the souls of those who will imitate us. It is easier to learn charm, to grow as a networker, to upskill in the intricacies of church management, to be busy-making than ever it is to let one’s heart steep in the grace of Christ.
I had forgotten how hard it could get, this steeping thing. I had forgotten how tough the battle to steep in grace could become. I have become used to an ongoing fight, day after wearying day, year into heart-draining year – not so far off a decade now – wondering if it would ever get easier.
But now I find that it gets harder. Every step like one through a morass of fear and foreboding, forces I hardly recognise seeking to make me give up on those dreams of building a church which will be unlike the church bequeathed to my generation.
And yet still I remember: I remember what it was to feel this for the first time, only one year a believer and answering his call to start daily prayer in my college. I remember the paralysing fear even now, the antipathy which this prayer thing triggered amongst the saints, an antipathy the force of which remained unexplainable even to those same believers afterwards, when they had received it as God’s will for our college Christian group and joined with willing hearts. I remember the sickening conviction that I had taken on more than I knew, a dark emptiness that I had never before experienced.
It’s come again.
I have never wanted to give up as much as I have wanted to in the last six months or so. I have never wanted out of leadership ministry like I do so much of the time these days. I have never felt so lonely in the work, so doubting as to whether what I hope could ever actually be. The fear and negativity come over me in waves at times; the thoughts of what else I could do in the kingdom are subtle interruptions in my mind which seem quite reasonable at those times of attack. I dream of giving myself fully to those things which he intends to be only part of my life, the counterpoint to this work of faith which is the forming of a small gathering of his people. I dream of this because it would be easier.
And somehow this thing, the attack, seems more insidious this time; it seems more reasonable to surrender the dream of what could be. And yet also more intolerable that things should remain as they are.
But I remember that first time.
And I choose to steep in grace.
I choose to depend on him, to walk the path he has laid out before me, to work for the things he has shown me. I choose to live out the convictions he has begun to stir in my heart, the beliefs that there can be a better way to make disciples and that to be community is not so counter-cultural as to be impossible.
If nothing more, I do this because the opposition which I am experiencing has the Enemy’s name written all over it. I do it because it has started to get harder than what was already eight years of hard and because, if anything, the new intensity of this fight to the death tells me that the time of this dream’s birth must be near. I do it because I am His and he has overcome the one who is in the world. And, on the good days, I do it for the joy set before us, that this little community of saints might learn to steep slowly in the grace of Christ and that through our faithfulness others will begin to see the beauty of his precious bride.
So here I am, steeping in his grace. Learning what I hope will become a real and palpable holiness. And maybe – however slowly – becoming the kind of person who can lead others into a deeper life in Christ. I pray that it can be so.