When “God Doesn’t Show Up”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst,” as a justification for a poor turnout at a prayer meeting, Bible study, or worship service. This, as you likely know, is an abuse of scripture. The context of Jesus’ statement is that of church discipline and he telling his disciples that when they make a decision in that regard, it is as if Jesus himself is there making the judgment with them. If we have a poor turnout, there is no comfort offered for that — no justification. That said, what do you do when God doesn’t show up?

We’ve tried to host a mid-week gathering for years. Sometimes it’s been a class, sometimes a study, sometimes a prayer meeting. Most recently we are trying to start a mid-week worship service. I’ve prayed over this, I am convinced that God has led us here, that he has led us to structure our fellowship the way it is. Once again, as we stepped into this ministry, no one showed up. If two families (friends of ours) from other churches hadn’t joined us, we would have had one single person besides my own family show up. We’re a small church, but this is ridiculous.

In my natural mind, I’m fighting the temptation toward bitterness and resentment. The accusations of the enemy are swirling around my head. I know better, but it’s hard when you feel you have been as obedient as you can be, when you given all you have to give, and literally nothing happens. I know I need to be patient. I know that faithfulness is the mark of success in the Kingdom, not numbers. I know that God is doing things that I cannot see, let alone understand. I know these things, but I’m finding no encouragement in them, in part because it seems like this has been the story of my 12 years of ministry here.

It’s easy to look at the ministry we do in the church and feel we’re doing our part in the kingdom as a child of God. I am a child of God who serves the church as a shepherd/teacher, but I am a child of God and a disciple of Jesus first. I know that sometimes I can forget that and think that teaching and admonishing others is the extent of my part. It’s not. I need to practice what I preach and do myself what I admonish the people to do; I need to lead by example, so I’m evaluating myself in that regard. I find myself in one of those seasons, though:  a season of spiritual and emotional fatigue, feeling weak and a little beat up. It’s your turn to minister to me:

What do you do when (as we say) God doesn’t show up? We all know that he is omnipresent and it’s not a matter of him showing up or not. So what do you do when you feel you’ve been faithful, and you see little to no fruit for your efforts? Post your comments below and let’s encourage each other!

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