The Struggle Is Real

by Nicholas Kersten

Director of Education and History

(This originally appeared on Nick’s private blog and has been lightly edited for content and length.)

As I sit writing, it is technically the last day of 2016, though only just barely.I have spent much of the past two years taking on a job which, by everyone’s admission, was too big for a person to accomplish alone. It didn’t stop me from trying, but in the end, those efforts didn’t make me a plurality of people. The job has been big. Happily, many talented and devoted Seventh Day Baptists have stepped up to aid me and my fellow Directors in accomplishing the work over the past two years. These days, the work of the SDB General Conference is increasingly being done very competently by a growing pool of talented and dedicated volunteers. I call that a significant victory, not just for my sanity, but for us as a people.

I am grateful for the many people over the past 30 or so months who have expressed concern for my health, for my sanity, and for the health and sanity of my family — and especially my wife, who has soldiered on bravely with a fraction of a husband for most of the past two years. We were aware that the transition would be difficult and that the first couple of years especially would be hard. In that expectation, we have not been disappointed.

But my reason for writing is because, as I have journeyed through the past 24 months with our leaders, something has become painfully clear: the cultural and spiritual forces working against what God is doing among Seventh Day Baptists are formidable, and worse, they are destroying leaders and churches throughout our Conference. To put a finer point on it: the leaders of our General Conference and the leaders of our local churches have been under an onslaught of trouble and difficulty for a period which is at least as long as my tenure as the Director of Education and History.

Many people in the United States have spoken about the difficulty and pain of these past couple of years by personifying a year as though a calendar could somehow be malevolent. 2016, in particular, seemed to receive blame for the difficulty, as though a span of chronological time could be culpable for what transpires during it. I assure you, a span of time is not our real enemy. Instead, I suspect that we have personified and demonized a span of 366 days as a way of ignoring the plain reality: we have entered a difficult time, and in the midst of the difficulties, we are all being tested.

Because I work at our General Conference office, many of the stories of these difficulties and struggles among SDBs reach me in a way that is unique, though certainly not every story or piece of bad SDB news finds us at the Center. Even so, in the past two years I have noticed a decided uptick in the attack on our leaders throughout the Conference, both in the local churches and in the Conference leadership. More specifically, I have seen…

the marriages of our leaders come under

increased stress, leading to divorce, separation,

and departure from leadership;

the families of our leaders come under increased

stress, including fractures in families, untimely

deaths, and the children of our senior leaders

departing the faith;

the emotional and physical health of our leaders

come under increased stress, including freak

accidents, unexpected and rare illnesses, and

emotional breakdowns;

the economic well-being of our leaders comes

under increased stress, with some losing their

livelihoods and others facing extreme financial

hardship, sometimes as a result of health issues

or freak accidents;

inappropriate strife and relational problems in

our churches, especially among our leaders,

leads to church splits and uncharitable behavior

which degrades our witness to Jesus Christ.

It has been rough. My suspicion is that these troubles are finding everyone. But the probability of these troubles finding our leaders in such an egregious and disproportionate way leads me to believe that at least some of these troubles are coming directly from the enemy as a means of slowing our work — and more broadly, the work of God’s kingdom. The specifics of some of these difficulties and who they have afflicted are not the reasons I have been driven to write — they are widespread, but obviously not every leader or church has been afflicted equally. If reading this led you to ask who I am talking about, you may be missing my point.

I have been slow to disclose this for fear that discussing it would somehow convey that I was not ready for the responsibilities of my job — that I was “too green” to lead. But at this point, given how widespread and prevalent the issues are, such fears have become a luxury I can no longer afford. In addition, the scope of the problem is very apparently much larger than just my own life — though I will not deny that I have not been exempted from some of the difficulties I have noted.

That’s why I’m writing this entry tonight. As I have taken stock and prayed over the past few months, it has become increasingly clear to me that part of the problem is that we have not done a good job interceding for our churches and our leaders as a Conference. That’s where you come in.

The purpose of this article is to beg you to pray.

We need faithful people who will commit to praying daily for Seventh Day Baptists. More specifically, we need people who will pray…

…for the leaders of local Seventh Day Baptist

churches, including pastors, deacons, teachers, etc;

…for the families of the leaders of our local

churches, including the parents, children and

grandchildren of our leaders;

…for the work of the local churches, and for clear

guidance, discernment, and unity as the churches

seek to do the work they are called to;

…and for our denominational leaders, including

the General Council members and their families,

the members of our Councils and their families,

and our Directors and their families as they

achieve their various responsibilities.

Would you commit to pray for these four groups daily, even if it is just for a few minutes?

Your prayers can make a difference in the lives of your churches and leaders, even as they make a difference in your own. If you are already praying regularly for your leaders, on their behalf I thank you! Please continue in it! Would you prayerfully consider spending even more time in intercession? If you aren’t praying regularly for your church and for your leaders, would you commit to praying, if even for a minute each day? The Scriptures clearly teach that your prayers are powerful, and that our response to difficulty should be to pray (James 5:13-16). Those of us who work for the Conference have renewed our commitment in the last few weeks to praying for these things. We hope that example is one which will be widely followed elsewhere. For those who may read this who aren’t Seventh Day Baptist — we will happily accept your prayers as well, in addition to your prayers offered for your own Christian leaders!

The times of trouble appear to have come. We are not without a way to respond! We need to commit to humble and expectant prayer together, even as we pull together to continue to do the work of building God’s kingdom.

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