A Purple Patch? Really?
Not being acquainted with the phrase, I discovered it is apparently when everything is going great, note worthy, successful – a great season of fruitfulness in an organisation. “A Purple Patch” on an otherwise dreary garment!
It took me by surprise really. You see it always surprises me when others assess you by a few mere headlines, when life is actually still full of endless small print. It is inevitable I suppose, but in our success orientated culture (even in the Christian circle) I think it can be harmful to think there are a few Christian success stories who float through life on a cloud of favour.
It is true that in the last year we have seen a breakthrough in a couple of significant areas in our church. We’ve seen literally hundreds healed – dozens of deaf ears open, cancer, cerebral Palsy, MS, ME, tumours, paralysed bodies healed, the lame walk. A revolution in our youth group. We’ve also known such an outpouring of God’s Spirit and presence that has left us simply overwhelmed at times. A truly wonderful season in God that we are seeking to pursue and turn into lasting culture, by His grace.
BUT THERE’S ALWAYS SMALL PRINT
But by way of encouragement, and in a purposeful devotion to “keep it real”, all is not continuously rosy! A few headlines that are visible from a distance are never the full story. There is always small print to deal with. And the small print is a big deal to us all!
Churches that portray only their headlines at conferences and other “platforms” actually discourage a lot of leaders. I LOVE it when a leader is real, something goes wrong, a bit of small print rises to the surface. Suddenly I have a friend, a family, rather than a set of headlines.
You see, I have found that if I judge someone else by their headlines, but me by my small print, it only breeds discouragement in me. I am basically comparing my worst with your best. My weakness with your strength. And that is simply not a true or worthwhile assessment.
Do you do the same?
Best not to compare at all of course. But if you’ve heard some good headlines lately, it may also encourage you to take a look at our small print too:
This year has been the year finances have plateaued and we spent the spring trying to fix a £100,000 deficit in the planned budget. While hundreds of people have been saved, dozens of other’s have left the church as God’s Spirit has moved and a “shift” taken place. Thankfully we are still growing – but no departure from a church family leaves the leader skipping for joy. (Well, OK occasionally you skip..but not this year).
We’ve had to lose two dear employees to redundancies. We’ve gone through the pain of losing dearly loved, precious people to serious sickness. We’re wrestling through the recession to trust God for a £3 million building project. There are still plenty of things in our church life that don’t ‘work” like I wished they did!
None of this “get’s me down” long term. But it does keep me on my knees and hanging around good friends who are ahead of me.
And it does lead me to thoughts about themes like “Revival”. I see how people respond to a few good headlines, suddenly thinking “all must be great”, and it makes me realise we make the same mistake when we read the histories of so called “Revivals”.
If you are trusting God for a growing revival in our nation, please do not think, from historical headlines, that all will one day be easy! Don’t think that life was simply those great “headlines”. As if in revival you no longer have arguments, need deodorant or to stop at red traffic lights! As if prayer is suddenly automatic, miracles require no boldness and humility will come easy!
Revival is not a cure all. It comes with persecutions, doctrine to ponder, people to rebuke, encourage and disciple. Plenty of humble pie to eat! It will still have offerings to give to, buildings to paint and insecurities to overcome. Even revival has small print. There will be many days in revival, that you still feel utterly ordinary. Get used to it. It’s healthy.
In a visit to what many called a blazing revival, I arrived slightly jet lagged. As thousands were overwhelmed by God’s Spirit and hundreds became Christians around me, I promptly fell asleep on the back row. Yes, I fell asleep in my first ever experience of full blown revival. ha!
GOD IS ON THE MOVE
So as God continues to increase what he’s doing in the nation. And He is … (My phone flashes at me right now with a story of another deaf ear opened, and, amazingly, reports of the dead raised in a meeting, in the UK, this month)! Wow!….
But as He continues to increase this move in the nation, realise no one is out there “Glowing in the dark”. Don’t be jealous for another’s walk with God or seeming success. We really are “in this together”.
GUARD YOUR HEART
Leaders, I have found that if I can keep my eyes on Jesus first; totally in love and worshipful towards him, then my heart is at peace. He must remain my main obsession!
Secondly, If I can encourage good momentum by focusing on my ministry’s good headlines, then that encourages that “Purple Patch” to grow. It brings hope, confidence, impact. My heart is encouraged. Write out your good headlines and thank God for them. You’re doing better than you think!
Thirdly, while doing the two above, I’ll keep working on the small print. My weaknesses that need bolstering. Repentance. Relational issues. Leadership capabilities. Gently, lovingly, I’ll keep working on the small print issues, bringing heaven into them as God’s grace allows. This keeps my heart humble!
…And when I’ve done all I can do, the rest is up to HIM!
“He who began a good work in you, will carry it on to completion!” Php 1:6