Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What is Success or Failure?

I occasionally get stumped with these topics.  This week is no different.  If you read any of my blogs, this one or my others, you can certainly sense a bit of frustration about ministry.  I have no doubt I was called into ministry.  I have no doubt, and I say this without pride but humble appreciation, that I am called to preach and teach.  The gifts God has given me in these areas are significant and yet without His doors being opened, there isn’t much more I can do.

Change the man to a woman and see how it strikes you? 

I’ve been preparing and preparing.  I’m in school again.  I know my path with school is different than many of you.  But it is part of my quest to be used of God.  In so many ways, I am still stuck in the feeling of failure.  I wonder so often, is it me?  What did I do wrong?  What more can I do?  I know a lot of people struggle with a call.  I did too only because I thought God would never use a woman who was divorced, remarried and whose husband wasn’t a believer.  I still think that’s a rather unusual thing.  But when asked, I just say I know God called me.  If you have a problem with my “qualifications” I guess you just have to ask God about it.  My responsibility is to be obedient.

In 2002, I answered a call to plant a church.  I saw a building and a community and prayed.  I prayed hard.  I took pictures of the building and asked people to pray.  I even photo-shopped the name of the church on the windows of the building.  The Well – a non-denomination church.  My husband and I met with a realtor, made an offer and nothing…

In 2003, I met some women who had a coffee shop near Music Row in Nashville.  They offered the use of the building for church on Sunday morning.  I prayed.  I talked to my pastor who was also my boss at the time.  He said “What are you waiting for Sister Joyce?”  Of course I didn’t know at the time that his enthusiasm was not just from the Lord – it was also because he had a young man he wanted to come in and replace me.  He was just waiting for me to leave. 

I went.  The Well had its first meeting.  We had a good crowd and filled the shop.  We had a great worship leader.  We had a treasurer/bookkeeper who was also an intercessor.  We had a decent crowd while we met there.  We were excited.  We have vision.  It wasn’t in the town I’d prayed to be in, but it was a start.  Then the coffee shop closed – no warning, they just closed.  The Well was finished.  God opened no other doors.  No other buildings were available.  We were done.

I slowly accepted the betrayal of my former pastor.  I accepted that God had closed this door as fast as He opened it.  It wasn’t easy.  In 2006 my husband and I opened a coffee shop in the same town that I had prayed over years before.  The Well resurrected.  Some new people and the same awesome worship leader returned to proclaim the gospel.  The vision had been refined over those years in between.  I had been in school studying biblical studies for several years. 

For over two years we met.  I've never closed our MySpace page, you can see it here.  You can also see what the coffee shop was like by visiting it's still open MySpace page hereEventually, we closed the coffee shop for the same reasons the women on Music Row did – they had a great location and couldn’t stay afloat; I had a crappy location and couldn’t stay afloat.  But the church was doing well.  We had a small nucleus of great people – a different and superb worship leader, an associate pastor – people who loved God and each other.  We moved to the building I had photo-shopped and prayed over.  I didn’t own it.  One of our parishioners did.  She and her husband allowed us to meet there after they had thoroughly renovated the space.  I thought WOW – isn’t God good.  

Where The Well met after renovated into a Musical Cultural Heritage Center - Fiddle & Pick

God had brought me back where I always thought I should be.  It seemed like such a God thing.  We had some new people coming.  The future looked so promising.  God had given me a vision for adult singles.  We had no Sunday School or Christian Education space.  We would fill a different niche for the gospel.  We were experiencing respect in the community as well. I was asked to preach the community wide Easter Sunrise Service.  The only woman preacher in the community, pastor of the most non-traditional church in the community - what an honor!

In February of 2008 it began to crumble.  As quickly as God answered prayers, the rug came out.  Our worship leader took a wonderful position in Florida.  Another anchor family left.  On our 30th wedding anniversary a call came from South Dakota.  A dream job for my husband was offered while I sat in the car outside a Dunkin Donut at Cocoa Beach, Florida.  I wanted to scream WHY God???!!!  My last service as pastor of The Well was in October 2008.  The Well continued a while under the leadership of the Associate.  Eventually, it ceased to exist. 

Success?  Yes, those of us who were part of The Well know God was in it.  We know that God moved in all our lives and showed us a glimpse of true community.  Failure?  Yes, for me, it feels like failure.  When it comes to what God has for me in ministry, I wish I knew.  I am still waiting.


Irene said...

Simple obedience to what we believe God has called us to do at the time I think is the most important. We do ourselves a disservice when we try to understand it according to the worlds system of failure or success. You have been obedient to do what God called you to do and that's what counts isn't it? Lives were touched for eternity even if it was for a shorter season than you anticipated. The amount of time is not important because God can bring about a miracle in a split second. The important thing is being where your Heavenly Father wants you to be, doing what He wants you to do, and always being humbly willing to let go of a ministry that doesn't belong to you anyway, and move on to the next blessing Father has. It is obvious that the Lord trusts you so please do not underestimate the impact your obedience has had on the lives of others. The best wells are always the deepest and the purest. You can't see the water flowing but once you tap into it you know that it is.

David said...

I think there is a lot of success in your story.

There is a lot of success in your blogs.

There is a lot of success in your education.

There is a lot of success in your family.

How did Paul feel when in jail? After the ship wreck?

Every time you are obedient to God, you are a success!

Joyce Lighari said...

Thanks both of you for the encouragement. These are things I know... but don't always experience in the waiting...

Tonjia Rolan said...

It is difficult for women to FEEL validated in a patriarchal system. Most women experince their lives with an underlying sense of unworthiness that comes from the fact that they were born female, and in this culture, are considered LESS.

One of the things I love most about Jesus is his love for women, and his validation and support of them as worthy ministers of his gospel.


Anonymous said...

I suppose Jesus himself even felt a sense of failure when he cried out from the cross, "Father, why have you forsaken me?"

~Liz Kay

Joyce said...

Isn't that one of the most haunting verses in the scripture? Father, why have You forsaken me?

Anonymous said...

Joyce, yes - it is truly a haunting verse... one I've quoted often in my own struggles.

However, it is also quite encouraging when you realize even Jesus was discouraged during the very moment of victory at the cross.

So Joyce, be of good cheer... you're in good company!
~Liz Kay

David said...

The root word "shabak" is usually translated "forsake," however; it is also translated "kept" or "reserved." Therefore; the context is important to determine its meaning.

Why did God reserve Jesus? Because he was the Lamb without spot nor blemish!

Jesus was quoting Psalm 22:1.

I believe that he was proclaiming that he was the "sin offering" for all of mankind, using the Scripture to validate his claim as He did on other occasions.

In the end, He said, "it is finished" Which in fact, is the last verse of Psalm 22:31. "He has done it."

He was quoting scripture proclaiming the fulfillment of who he was, and why he was crucified!

Was it painful and nearly unberable? Yes. But God proved his faithfulness 3 days later!

And he will for each one of us.

Tony C said...

I love stories of inspired vision like yours Joyce. The very fact you have continued and even expanded your role in ministry tells me that we dont know, as Paul Harvey would say...the rest of the story.

I pray God richly blesses your obedience.

Joyce Lighari said...

Interesting analysis David. We could get into a long debate on this one but I won't bore those reading the blog with exegetical discussions :-) Besides, my Hebrew is rusty at this point. I remember my Hebrew prof talking about this passage and was moved to tears as he talked about Jesus swallowing up the pain of us all on the cross.
Thanks Tony - it will be interesting to see what the rest of the story might actually be...

photogr said...

I have a feeling Joyce that God will use you again to plant seeds. The next time they will be more fruitful. Don't give up.

Pati Nanni said...

well, may a day I write my history too. all that I say is today after 4 year I have a church with around 20 people and we are growing just now. lots people said it is crazy but to me success is sleep and wake up knowing that to obey God is better than hear man!
Powerfull blog.
praised be Jesus for your life
have a blessed weekend =D