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Not Alone…

I spent this past weekend with a half dozen German congregations from the western part of that great country. As you would expect, the scenery was breathtaking, the food was amazing, and the people were deeply committed to God and the local church where they worshipped Him.

While my assignment was to teach, I found myself more often on the side of learning–a reality every teacher understands. And what I learned is that the challenges that dot the church on the American landscape look very similar in this very different place.

Like the church in America, the church in Germany…

is aging and struggling to connect with younger people. Godly people cling tightly to long-held traditions and forms of worship and then struggle to understand why a younger generation feels disconnected. Like many here, they mistakenly think the battle is between their meaningful music and culture’s determination to modernize everything, and deem those things of the past as outmoded. Churches that have discovered the real goal of conveying a timeless God in the words spoken by their youth are thriving. But those who battle for their own preferences are losing the war.

is desperate for workers to help with ministry efforts. Moving people past consumerism to actual participation and service in the local church isn’t just an American problem. While our surveys place this challenge at the top of the list of pastors’ frustrations, it seems we’re not alone. And the greatest difficulty isn’t among new believers either. It seems that those who’ve been around awhile have somehow decided that it’s their turn to be served. Shouldn’t there be an increase in participation as discipleship experience increases?

has many pastors in need of encouragement. I met some amazing pastors. Frank, Johannes, Uvey, Peter, Ingaborg, and Marcus to name a few. Great people with great passion for the work God has given them. Most have spent multiple decades laboring amidst challenging economic times, frustrating relational conflicts, a host of unexpected setbacks no weekend training can equip you to overcome. Still they engage the opportunity with hopeful spirits and continue to walk forward in faith where others might have chosen to turn back.

I guess that’s the point. We’re not alone when so many of our fellow-laborers struggle with the same hardships. Yet, so many pastors feel alone. I applaud the efforts of people like my missionary friend, Steve, and his team–people who see the quality in these leaders and look for ways to encourage and strengthen them. We’re truly not alone, but it seems many pastors need to know that because the feelings of isolation and loneliness shout a different message.

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