“for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
It would have been awesome to have been part of the first church. But instead, I was born in 1978. Still, in my mind, I am part of that first church. That age still exists. I’m in it. When I read Acts and 1 Timothy and Philemon and 1 John it still applies. I feel at home. I might have to think through how it works out in my setting, but work out it does.
In an attempt to learn more about Paul’s ministry style, the Calvary Monterey leadership team is studying 2 Corinthians right now. That letter, man. It’s wild. Paul opened his heart to those people like crazy. He explained his ministry life powerfully there. So we’ve been journeying through the book, gleaning lessons on modern ministry from Paul’s original style.
At one point Paul wrote about serving Christ under the shadow of the judgment seat of Christ. He talked about the glory of the future body. There, he wrote about walking by faith, not by sight.
As a team, we pondered: how can a modern church in a context like ours walk by faith? How can we avoid the dangers of sight-based work, but keep it in the faith realm?
Here are a few of the thoughts we landed on:
We must walk by faith towards people. We are called to make disciples and disciple making takes massive faith. Peter, John, Paul — none of them started as disciples. But Christ saw something they couldn’t see in themselves. As church leaders, we must see the unseen, the new creation within the people we serve.
Paul talked about this. He explained that we used to regard Christ according to the flesh, but we regard him that way no longer (2 Corinthians 5:16). In the same way, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We aren’t to regard new creations according to the flesh any longer. We have to see the unseen.
We must see the unseen when God raises up new leaders. Do we believe in what God could do through them? It is amazing how predictable this is. When we were younger in the Lord, we sought opportunities to serve God. As the years ticked by, however, we ceased thinking people younger in the Lord could do the very things we used to do. We must maintain a strong faith in what God can do in the lives of the young bucks.
We must walk by faith financially. We are called to be good stewards. We are called to receive good counsel and exercise discernment. But we must also have faith in the financial realm.
Money is not a God to be worshiped. Money is neither good nor evil, but neutral. Like the body, it can be used for good or evil — and we must use it for good. God intended humanity to exercise dominion and finances are a great way for us to do so. With it, we can take steps of faith. But as a church cries out to God for their daily bread they are living by faith, not sight. This takes place in the day to day operations of a fellowship. Do we believe God will continue to provide?
Do you trust Christ in your personal finances? Watch Him work in the affairs of the church as well. I remember sending out one of our pastors to plant a church a couple of years ago. Everyone rejoiced, but it was a step of faith for us. We felt led by God to pay his salary for a while and to donate some startup funds to this new sister church. It was a stretch for us financially. I couldn’t easily “see” how it would work out, but it did. God has always shown Himself faithful here.
3. Physical Weakness
We must walk by faith in the realm of physical weakness. Medical issues, fatigue, and aging are ours to battle through. In all our scientific advancements, we still get sick and injured. We still age. We still tire. This fatigue creates a longing in us for eternity, for our new bodies. Paul wanted to put off his tent and receive his glorious eternal building. Medical issues accentuate this desire in our hearts. As we serve Christ, we are not immune from the illnesses these broken bodies are prone to. Serving Jesus in the midst of a medical pain requires faith.
This weakness takes place in the day to day work. Up to this point in my life, I have had good health. A couple of significant car crashes, combined with my tall frame, give me back pain, but otherwise, I am in good health. In fact, I try to steward my health well so that I’ll have as much strength as possible. But in all that, I get tired in the work. I feel the limitations of my body. But faith requires me to press on, believing God can use me in my weakness. I've heard many stories of God’s supernatural touch on sick men in the pulpit. Stories of temporary healing enabling them to function while delivering God’s Word. So far, that hasn’t been my story. When I was young God showed me that if I was sick I would feel sick in the pulpit, but that He would be faithful regardless.
We must walk by faith in projects we embark on. Sometimes you sense you need to begin a new ministry or project. You might not see exactly why, but you must walk by faith. Many of the things the Spirit will ask us to do will violate our sight, but in the realm of faith, we must know God has a plan. We do not know which endeavors will be just what God wanted. College ministries when there are no young people. Youth ministries when there are no youth. Starting a conference in obedience to Him. When we gather together in prayer and come to a consensus on a fresh decision, we must let it come from faith. Much of the Christian life is counterintuitive, and much of ministry is as well.
This brand of faith takes place constantly in a living church. I remember writing my first book, geared towards Christian men. I had no idea why I was writing. There was no book deal, no publisher, no one even asking for me to write a book. But I sensed I was supposed to, and the fruit of that book is still reverberating. Not many copies have been sold, but that was never the ultimate goal. I’ve gotten to speak at many men’s events, have continued to write, and met more men than I can count who were impacted by the book. I still have no idea what that little step of faith has done. Have marriages been saved? Have children been served? Have callings been received? I’m confident they have, even when I don’t see it personally.
5. Ventures of Faith
We must walk by faith by entering into ventures of faith. While similar to the “projects” realm, this category seems larger to me. There are day-to-day projects we might enter into, and then there are larger ventures. For us, this would include launching a new weekend service, planting a church, or partnering with a fresh missions opportunity. Things like this are major in their commitment. The decision to enter into them have a strong impact on the entire church. Big shifts in the way the church conducts ministry, or a significant hire would fall into this category for me.
These ventures of faith are so often a major violation of our sight. We have no idea — really — how these different steps will work out. But we know we must move forward. This is why these ventures of faith can be so life-giving for a church. I remember making the decision to shift everything in our church to accommodate a weekly, in-home small group ministry. For us, it was a significant shift, and it took some doing. We had to push through doubts, questions, and existing structures to get there, without any guarantee they would work. But we had a sense this was God’s heart for us — faith — and God has gone beyond our wildest dreams as a result.
6. Biblical Methodology
We must walk by faith when we use the methods God’s word gives us for ministry. The Spirit, the Word, and prayer are all elements that go beyond the realm of sight. Sight would say these elements cannot possibly lead to effectiveness, but faith embraces them. Take the old teaching on fasting, for instance. In the sight realm it makes no sense, but in the faith realm, we believe God is at work in the fast. In the sight realm, a prayer meeting is a waste of time, but in the faith realm prayer is vital. In the sight realm Bible study is an empty pursuit, but in the faith realm, we understand the life-changing nature of the Word of God. Any methodology you find in Scripture is one that will require faith for operation.
Biblical methods are important to the church of faith. Often, these methods are painfully slow. There is nothing quick or immediate about them. I remember starting an introductory Bible teachers class years ago. I was trying to obey the command to commit these things into the hands of faithful men who would be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2). The painstaking work, meeting week after week, seemed to take forever. So slow. But the fruit that has come from each class I’ve held has been immense. It’s like striking gold. The work is laborious, but the payoff is huge.
7. The Message
We must walk by faith when we preach the message of the gospel of God. His Word is sharp and dividing. The truth of it confronts every culture in one way or another. It is a stumbling block to some, an offense to others. Sight would dictate we massage the message, changing it for modern sensibilities. But faith leans into it, teaching and declaring it unapologetically. Faith believes the message is good medicine for the listener. We ought to think through who we are talking to so we can best answer their objections and help them understand God’s Word. But faith requires us to keep on preaching.
Preaching the message of the gospel itself requires faith. I remember praying over our church and my role in it one day. “Lord,” I prayed, “I don’t want to be a limiter on what You are doing. I feel so weak. I don’t want to get in the way. I don’t want to hinder the work.” Now, I know I am more than capable of being a hindrance to the work. He works through me in spite of me, not because of me. But on this day, I sensed the Lord say, “Nate, remember, my message is a limiter. The gospel can be offensive. It can stumble. You preach it. I will take care of the results.” It takes faith, especially if you live in a community the gospel has not saturated, to preach the message.
As I said earlier, this is in no way exhaustive, but hopefully, this short list will help you as you seek to walk by faith. Sight is a killer in church work, so let us labor to enter into the life of faith.