Leadership and suffering
HOUGHTON, MI – We serve in Houghton Michigan at Houghton Baptist Church, “A place for the Community.” We’ve been serving here for more than 12 years. 4 years ago we decided as a church to stop playing church and actually be the church. We opened our minds and hearts to new ideas and the possibilities of all that God has for us as a church. We built on, adding another 100 seats in our Worship space which also gave us a great space for our Children’s Church Ministry.
We strongly believe as a church in reaching versus maintaining. Many churches, if we're being honest, spend their days maintaining and miss all that God has for them and their community.
Six months ago we launched a second service to further grow as a church. It hasn’t been easy, but it was needed. Recently, we brought the entire church together for a One Service Sunday, and we had over 230 people show up for worship and lunch. It was a zoo! So thankful for the growth and the wisdom to take that step so we could further multiply. Growth takes faith and a willingness to trust God at his word.
Since the New year, we’ve led 2 more people to Christ, and baptized 12 more people. Over the past 4 years, we’ve led 32 to Christ, and baptized 107 people in our church. It’s been an absolutely amazing to experience. The harvest is ripe and the workers are few.
This is our purpose as a church; to reach lost and unchurched people, basically pluck them from the community and share Christ with them. Every change we’ve made as a church was worth the lives we’re seeing coming to faith in Jesus. But don’t misunderstand me, there have been trials. There’s been suffering. There’s been critical people. There’s been elevated spiritual warfare. We’ve even lost around 75 people the last few years, and it’s been heartbreaking. We fully understand the reason for all of this. Satan’s angry with our church and it’s leadership. That’s crystal clear. We’ve painted a huge target on our backs. We’re watching God break chains. Chains that have been there for years. More than half of our church didn’t even have a home church a year ago. Meaning they were unchurched. The majority of Houghton Baptist Church hadn’t been in a church for years. This is why the enemy hates us so much.
These people were in the enemy's grip, but God has used us to rescue them. Every blessing is coupled with some sort of sacrifice. As the Lead Pastor, I’ve suffered greatly. Let’s be honest, serving as a Lead Pastor means you will suffer at some level. There comes a point in time in your ministry where people come against you. People that you’ve served with will leave you. They’ll say the most hurtful things. They’ll judge you. They’ll betray you. They’ll miss your heart and motives. The place that you are called to serve is supposed to be home and a safe place for you and your family, but that’s not always the reality.
We lead. We love unconditionally. We serve sacrificially. We put our ministries first, and in the end, it cost us greatly. I’ve been chronically ill with a painful autoimmune disease for four years now. Do the math. At the height of our ministry here, we’ve suffered the most. The second we decided to be a church on mission all of hell has come against us. We’ve had to lean on Christ more than any other time in our ministry and that’s okay. God has placed favor on us and it’s evident. But don’t mistake favor for a trial-free ministry. Trials and hardships always come coupled with God's favor.
This past Sunday one of our members handed us a check for $25,000.00 to put directly on the addition we built 4 years ago. It’s unbelievable. We’re putting the full amount on the mortgage which means we will only owe $53,000.00. God has made a way for us to reach the most broken people in our community. The poorest in our community, and yet we’re seeing gifts like this. Not to mention that last year was our best financial year since I became Pastor.
Why do I say all that? Why did I go into all of what we are experiencing both good and bad? Because you must know the price of authentic ministry. You must know that it won’t always be easy. It won’t always be pain free. Some days you are going to want to run and hide from the hurt. Some days you’ll want to quit and do something else. But here’s the thing, you were made to do this. You were designed for a purpose. And God is certainly big enough to carry you and provide for you and your church no matter the situation. He’s faithful. We’ve seen salvations. We’ve seen baptisms. We’ve seen the church double in size. We’ve seen financial provision. Stay the course.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Whitaker, I a father of three amazing children, husband to one beautiful wife, Director of Operations at Love INC of the Copper County and Pastor at Houghton Baptist Church.