Flourishing in the face of our biggest fear

You know how in every event that we as leaders do, there is that niggling fear in the back of our minds? The fear of failure. The worst case scenario.

Well, for us this year, it finally happened. The nightmare scenario appeared and slapped us in the face. And you know what? I’m really grateful that it did.

For years I had on my heart that I wanted our church to be known for welcoming, supporting and spiritually equipping families with children who have additional needs. But God said wait. Then he brought a wonderful woman, Rachel, to join my team, who had both the passion and a bit of experience. God stirred the hearts of congregation members who had skills in these areas, and spurred them to approach her out of the blue, volunteering themselves to help develop this ministry: God was on the move.

The newly formed team decided to run a Christmas event designed specifically for families with children who have additional needs. Sensory rooms and stations of all kinds were designed; the biggest volunteer team we had this Christmas was recruited; advertisements went out to local churches, children’s centres, charities, schools, surgeries and local organisations. We told ourselves and our team that even if just one family came, then we have done our job.

And yet the niggle in the back of our minds was there. And the fear of the worst thing, the utter failure whispered almost imperceptibly in the background. We created plan bs and plan cs. Then the day finally came.

The team showed up early and laughed their way through the set-up, additional unexpected volunteers showed up to support and help, and lifegroups and our church leadership prayed in their homes. We were ready. And we waited. An hour in, and still nobody had come. It’s not over yet, we said. Anybody want a biscuit? Laughter drifted across our church as the team enjoyed each other, playing games and doing crafts. And waiting.

With five minutes left of the event, Rachel and I looked at each other. No one had come. Not one. The nightmare scenario, the .01 per cent chance had occurred. We had followed what God was doing, we did what we felt he was saying, and yet.... no one came.

In the kingdom of God, events are not judged by what we think they should look like, but by the fruit God intends

What do we say? What do we feel in that moment of sheer exposure?

As the final minute passed, we closed the doors and the team sat down together. As I looked around I was just stunned. I wasn’t looking at a grumpy, despondent team of people who felt like they had given up half a Saturday for nothing. I saw happy faces, full of purpose and on fire for the vision that they had joined. Somehow this team was even more excited about the future of ministering to families with special needs than before. We talked of our shared heart for families, we talked of our readiness for any children with additional needs now for the whole Christmas period, we talked of the future and the need in our community for a church ready to welcome and bless these families. We prayed and interceded for the families, we listened to God together, and we went out with joy.

On the face of it, an event where no one attends is a failure. But in the kingdom of God, events are not judged by what we think they should look like, but by the fruit God intends.

Already, we are seeing fruit from this event: in how our team thinks, in how we are including families on Sunday and in how we are more attuned to and ready to respond to who is walking through the door.

I was reminded that I serve a faithful God who doesn’t flinch in the face of my biggest fear because his ways are not our ways, and he turns all things to such great good. When God says to do it, there is no such thing as failure.

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