“Your shoulders are not big enough!” I would hear this often from my friend and fellow member of our Presbytery’s Minister and His Work Commission. This statement always served as a good and often timely reminder that the battle is not mine. As pastors, we are leaders and fixers. It is easy for us to take the burdens of ministry and try to carry them ourselves. Personal trials, church conflicts, or denominational turmoil are all things we put on our shoulders and try to fix them in our own strength and wisdom. Sometimes we can go so far as to think it depends on us alone. This tendency is terrible. Our shoulders are not broad enough.
When we think it is up to us alone, we deny our theology and the clear teaching of Scripture. We deny God’s active and powerful work in our lives and the situations in our churches. Also, we often slip from principled actions to employ tactics and power plays of the world. We stop acting like brothers. A party spirit of us versus them enters the church for whom Christ prayed to be one.
Prayer is an antidote for this error. Prayer keeps us looking to the Lord. It reminds us that God’s will is being done. It keeps us loving one another because it is hard to disparage and marginalize the brothers you are praying for even when you disagree.
Prayer puts our situations in perspective. The eternal God of all power, all knowledge, and who is all-seeing knows and is working in your situation. He is not tricked or misled. His plan is perfect and unstoppable. We must trust in God and be principled in doing our duty. We do not let go and let God, but rather do our duty trusting in God.
Prayer also reminds us of God’s mercies in battles past. In my first church, Satan had sown a hard division. It was a complete misunderstanding, but there were broken relationships even among the Session. I remember praying in my office for a couple of hours leading up to our Session meeting that God would pour out the Holy Spirit and bring us to unity. The meeting was one of the most contentious in my ministry. Yet, at the end of that meeting, God had work unexpectedly and the Session left in laughter, hugs, fully restored.
For many of our NAPARC denominations, our Synod and assembly meetings are full of controversy. We see it in the Baptist and Methodist denominations too. These are issues that could fundamentally change our churches. These are problems that our shoulders are not wide enough to carry. These are burdens we must let Jesus carry. It is to Him we turn for help and blessing. Here is our hope for our denominations and churches.
This summer, we enter a season of meetings that will have challenges for every denomination. All of us will face how we minister in our post-Covid and post-Christian culture. We need to be engaged. We need to speak to these issues. Most of all, we need to be seeking God’s help in prayer. Only with God do we find shoulders that are wide enough for the issues and problems of our day.