As elders, we must lead the people of God in walking by faith. Of course, in order for an elder to lead he must be “out in front!” It does no good to simply tell people to walk by faith—we must show them what that means, how it works, and the relationship between faith and reasoned thinking.
There are times when the whole congregation must step forward in faith, with the elders leading the way. For example, how does a local group of believers decide when to move ahead with a building project? Can we afford it? Do we take out a loan? What about when faced with beginning a new ministry or outreach into a difficult area? Will we have enough people to staff it? Will it take away from other ministries? How do we step in faith in such a way that the congregation walks in faith with us?
I believe that informing the congregation of the pros and cons of major ministry decisions is wise leadership and shows them the thought processes spiritual men go through when walking by faith. Too often, Christians look at “spiritual giants” and think faith is something that simply comes upon them in some mysterious way and that it has no relationship to reason. But, this is not the case. In fact, faith involves a considered use of wise thinking. How really do men make wise decisions regarding stepping out in faith?
We may gain some insights from George Muller, a man widely regarded for his faith in trusting God for resources to support hundreds of orphans. In the 1800s, Muller, by faith, developed and operated orphanages in Bristol, England.
In his autobiography (The Autobiography of George Muller, Whitaker House Publishers, pp. 206-210), he shares some of the pros and cons he worked through as he struggled with whether or not to build another orphanage.
Reasons against another orphanage:
- Would I be going beyond my spiritual capabilities?
- Would I be going beyond my physical and mental strength?
- If I felt sure that the present state of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution [another ministry he had] were to be the limit of my work, I would lay aside this thing at once.
- Is it like “tempting God” to think of building another Orphan House for seven hundred more orphans? (“Tempting God” means, according to the Bible, to limit Him in any of His attributes.)
- How will I get the money for building this large Orphan House?
- What would become of this institution after my death. (My business is to serve my own generation with all my might.)
- Would building another Orphan House cause me to be lifted up in pride?
Reasons for another orphanage:
- Many applications for admission continue to come in.
- The moral state of the poorhouses greatly influences me to go forward.
- I am further encouraged by the great help which the Lord has given me in this blessed service.
- My experience and capabilities have grown with the work.
- The spiritual benefit of more orphans is another reasons I feel called to go forward.
- My greatest desire is to show forth God’s glory and His readiness to hear prayer.
- I am peaceful and happy in the prospect of enlarging the work.
You may not be considering the building of an orphanage. But you are faced from time to time with significant decisions regarding ministry opportunities for the church. Do the Christians see you wrestling with “big” steps of faith? Are they aware of what the pros and cons are that you struggle with? If they only see the end result, they may have a tendency to place you on a pedestal of faith. But by sharing your “thought processes” with them, you are helping train them to walk by faith just like you do.
Oh, by the way, Muller went ahead with the project with the Lord’s blessing.