There are some questions in the Kingdom of God I find quite perplexing and difficult to understand.
One of them is this: why is it that no matter how hard they pray and work, some leaders are not able to grow their church or ministry beyond a certain point? They attend the leadership seminars and conferences; they read the latest books; they visit larger churches to learn what they could possibly do to improve and grow their ministry.
But it seems that regardless of what they do, their ministry doesn’t grow beyond a certain point.
I think of the good men and women I know who do everything right but what I have written above is their story. Although I certainly do not claim to have the answer, after two decades in ministry I think I may have some insight into this question which I share in the hope that it will help and encourage you. Maybe even free you!
I had the privilege and joy of being the Lead Minister at Calvary Tabernacle Church in Schenectady, NY, for fifteen years. When I arrived at the church, they had just been through a very painful split and the remaining congregation – approximately a hundred and twenty strong – were in need of much care and good leadership. When our leadership and I announced to the church that in September 2012 that I would be stepping down from my Lead Elder role to pursue the Father’s mandate for me to lead Shakaba full time, we were averaging seven hundred in attendance on a Sunday. Our finances were strong, our Missions program was humming, we had a quality staff and leadership team. Most importantly, we were deeply involved in our local community. And I still believe our worship was of a depth and quality I have not experienced anywhere else since.
But the truth is that for the two years before I left, the our numbers had plateaued and although my preaching was better than ever, and our team was attending the Leadership Summit, etc, we just couldn’t seem to grow beyond a certain point. If you ask the leaders who are now in charge (and the Staff) I’m sure they – as I do – will have many opinions on why this was the case, good and bad. However, after all is said and done, I think it is simply this: I had reached my measure for that particular God-given task.
I now believe that when a leader reaches their God-given measure – what I also call their “grace space” – no matter what they attempt, they cannot grow beyond it because the Lord won’t move you beyond the parameters He has given you.
Let’s consider the life of the Apostle Paul to better understand this
In the book of Romans 12:3 & 6, Paul says, “3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them.” Again in 2 Corinthians 10:13, Paul refers to his measure when he says, “We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us.” What interesting language. He teaches us that God has dealt to each one of us a measure of faith, a measure of grace, and a sphere – or scope – of service.
Faith (in every sense of the word) to believe, know and trust Him for the task, grace to do it, and a sphere to do it in. In Ephesians 4:7 we read, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Our individual measure is a manifestation of a portion of Christ’s own measure, as He determines it.
Christ determines the purpose and size of His gift (actually, Himself) in us and through us.
We can do nothing to change the measure God has given us or the scope of the work He has called us to. What we can and must do is discover it, understand it, and then express it in the Spirit’s power, to the fullest measure possible. Paul even goes so far as to make himself incredibly vulnerable for the sake of helping other leaders to understand the importance of serving within your measure when he confesses that God has a plan to make sure he doesn’t exceed his measure. And it isn’t a pleasant plan. Paul admits in 2 Corinthians 12:7, “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.” He repeats the words “lest I should be exalted above my measure” as if to stress the importance of this message.
Can you imagine? God is allowing Paul to suffer in order to prevent him form going beyond his measure. Why? because it would be harmful to Paul for him to do so. Either he would boast and God would need to humble him, or he would endanger himself and possibly derail his ministry, thereby never fulfilling his God-given measure.
In other words, he and the Kingdom would suffer loss, not to mention those who would not be reached because of his over-reaching.
Looking back over many years in the pastoral ministry, I now see more clearly that when I operated within the measure of faith, grace and scope the Father had ordained for me, all was well and we were favored by God. However, when I attempted to operate outside of my grace space, things didn’t go well – for me or those I was serving. I understand now that so much of who I am and what I do is included in my God-given measure.
I am by nature loving, innovative, inspirational, exploring and constantly in need of a lot of stimulation. This was reflected in the culture of our church. We were loving, constantly updating everything, highly missional, etc. Why? Because God’s measure for me shapes those he has included in my scope of ministry. I was supposed to grow the church to seven hundred and then hand it over to someone with a larger measure who could take it further. God’s measure in me helped us to become a creative, missional church with a highly relational culture. Why? Because that’s what Calvary Tabernacle needed at that stage of her development in God.
I understand now that in a similar way my God-given measure will shape Shakaba and the Global Family in ways they need to be shaped. And one day, once I reach my measure in this mandate from God, I will need to hand them over to someone with a larger measure.
Think about this for a moment: in all Creation, the only One with a perfect and unlimited measure is our Lord Jesus Christ. And right now, through the Holy Spirit, by His Father’s will, He is working out His measure through each and every one of us in order to bring as many as possible to know His Father and be with Him for eternity.
The issue is not the size of the measure but whether you and I are expressing it properly and fully.
I pray you will take the time to discover and understand your measure. And that you will have the humility and courage to accept it, whether it be large or small. One thing you can rest and rejoice in is the knowledge that our perfect, loving Father created you in your mother’s womb with perfect knowledge to be able to contain the measure He would be giving you for your life of service to Him.
Your measure is not a mystery to be solved, but rather a wonder to be uncovered and expressed for His glory and the benefit of others.