I love road trips. I much prefer driving to flying. For several years my family has gone to Myrtle Beach. From where I live, it’s about a 16 hour drive, with a few stops along the way. Yes, I know—I could get there in a 2-hour flight out of Buffalo, but still I much prefer the drive.
Until we hit a roadblock. I don’t like roadblocks. I know where I want to go and exactly how I want to get there and I don’t appreciate being rerouted because of some silly road closure.
As a police officer in the traffic unit, my husband knows exactly what I mean. Most people don’t bode well when a road is blocked off, no matter the reason. The responses he gets are actually quite… comical! (Okay, not so comical but if he doesn’t laugh at them he’ll you-know-what at them!) Roadblocks suck. They set us off course and require us to reroute. This causes delay, frustration, and disrupts our plans. There is zero advantage to a roadblock, right!?
When we think about roadblocks in ministry, most leaders know which typical roadblocks seem to creep up and usually have a good plan of attack to avoid them. I could list numerous blog posts about “The Top 5 Roadblocks in Ministry (and how to avoid them)” and you’d likely get lots of information and think you’re good to go. Here’s one: 5 Roadblocks That Make You Miserable In Ministry (And How To Avoid Them). And another: Generational Roadblocks. What these articles tend to talk about is the typical actions and attitudes that undermine innovation and growth in the church.
But what about those “other” roadblocks we don’t always anticipate… or talk about. Here’s a quick scenario to explain what I mean:
The deacons at Somewhere CRC were excited to have just embarked on a Community Opportunity Scan with Diaconal Ministries Canada. The COS is a process of discovery where churches can learn about the unique gifts and assets of their local neighbourhoods while also uncovering the needs and gaps that exist. This first step in the journey to becoming an invested partner in their community has been a long one but the congregation, for the most part, is on board. A team has been set up to lead the COS journey, which consists of the Outreach Pastor, two deacons, a young adult new to the church and one elder.
The team has just entered one of the last stages of the COS journey and has put together their report to Council. In it they provide some of their findings, along with the ministry opportunities they feel God is calling them to. It also includes a potential “plan of action”, based on the gifts and passions that exist in their congregation and potential community partners.
And then the team receives the bad news: the Outreach Pastor’s wife has breast cancer. The entire church is devastated and rallies to surround the pastor and his family in this difficult time.
So, the COS is put on hold – indefinitely. If they’re being honest, the Outreach Pastor was leading the charge pretty much the entire way through and now that he needs to step away for an unknown amount of time, the committee is left reeling and feeling unsure how to proceed.
This is just one example of how a ‘roadblock’ can show up in our ministry. While on the surface, we could simply say, ‘that’s life!’, we, at Diaconal Ministries Canada, feel like a pattern is emerging which needs to be acknowledged and taken seriously.
Over the years, Diaconal Ministries has witnessed a diaconate/congregation start down a new ministry path when “out of nowhere”, a blockade (or a couple of blockades) crops up that is discouraging and often results in a slowing or halting of progress. Unfortunately, we could list a number of true stories that are similar to the one above.
Now to be clear, these blockades aren’t always mental and/or physical illness in the family of key leaders. They can be key leaders moving away or moving on, a spirit of discouragement among the team and/or congregation, an unresolved issue coming to the surface (again), or fill-in-the-blank. These blockades can easily be seen as individual one-offs, but taken as a whole, we wonder if there is more going on.
Here at Diaconal Ministries, we are beginning to see them as spiritual roadblocks.
Over the course of the next 10 months or so, we want to make deacons aware of these realities AND help them deal with these kinds of challenges. To do this, we are producing a brand new set of devotions, which will be rolled out once/month on our e-Quip Diaconal Blog.
This new set is called: Detours; Overcoming Spiritual Roadblocks in Ministry. The focus of the devotions will be how the Holy Spirit equips and empowers deacons (and all believers) to do the work of ministry and advance the Kingdom of God. We will be building up a ‘spiritual’ toolbox of resources for deacons to use: prayer, discernment, listening to God’s voice, getting guidance from the Lord, and more.
We aim to publish each devotion on the second Wednesday of each month, starting on January 13, 2021. Every Chair of Deacon in Canada will receive these to their inbox on the 2nd Wednesday at 4pm (EST). These blog posts will also be downloaded as a pdf to print and/or share with your team of deacons. We hope this will give your team of deacons time to plan and prepare to use these at your next deacon’s meeting, whether online or in-person. Each devotion will have a bible reading and a short devotion.
Most will have discussion questions that are optional as well as a follow-up question or exercise your diaconate can go through (either personally or as a group). We are asking deacons to carve out at least 15-20 minutes of time to walk through these devotions. We also invite our American deacons to follow along and download these devotions as well!
Our hope is that you will be encouraged by this new series of devotions, remembering to put on the full armour of God (Eph. 6:10-20) as you actively serve in God’s Kingdom, despite the challenges and detours that can come your way.
So for now, stay tuned for our first post to come out shortly: “Stephen – Filled with the Holy Spirit."
“For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” – Ephesians 6:12