The following story took place early in the 21st century:
The first day on the job, my pastor husband was setting up his office in a wonderful church where we were serving at the time. He called out to his secretary: "How do I access the internet?" She responded, "We don't!"
It turns out that the World Wide Web had never inhabited the little church. Later that week, pastor husband gathered among a group of humble servants to have a discussion about getting the office set up with an internet provider. The proposal was initially met with pleasant chatter of several obvious reasons the staff could use access to the internet in the office. Things were going well until perplexed and indignant, one of them bellowed out the question, "Why in tha world do we need tha inner-nets?!"
Progress is hard sometimes, isn't it? What may seem like a simple idea to you may be completely lost on someone else or worse yet, a signal that Armageddon is upon us. The reality is, progress is always hard but feels especially difficult sometimes in ministry. So many relationships, and feelings and perspectives to navigate through! If that's not enough, then you have days when the youth room ceiling caves in, the fellowship hall floods or a twenty thousand dollar air conditioning unit dies. You and your ministry spouse can see the potential everywhere but getting there feels like a challenge to climb Everest.
I'd like you to meet Annie. Annie Armstrong often found herself having to either move through or plow around one obstacle or another. There was a term that she used often. It described her and her ministry well. The word was, "Forward." Annie Armstrong, is best known for her role in the founding of WMU ( Woman's Missionary Union), serving as corresponding secretary for 18 years.
She advocated for missions through constant letter writing to those who had the ability to further mission efforts. The amount of letters she would write would fluctuate between 4,000 and nearly 18,000 letters per year. She was known as an organizational genius and her very presence commanded attention. Standing at six feet tall, her contemporaries described her as, "a born leader." It was said that she possessed a "rare generalship" and had "a will as imperious as Julius Caesar's." It would be impossible to list all of her accomplishments.
Annie would seem like an unstoppable force but she, like all of us, had discouragement. Annie faced all kinds of critics, sexism, personality conflicts, conflicts within the organizations she was a part of, conflicts from outsiders, organizational debt, delays, and issues with her own personal health. Almost everything she tried to do was met with some type of opposition or delay by someone or something. She was constantly trying to figure out how to push through. Annie Armstrong accomplished more for the Kingdom than most of us can wrap our minds around, but not without many gritty struggles.
Her motto was "Go Forward." This is from Exodus 14:15 which reads, "And the Lord said unto Moses, wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward." I find this passage funny. God is speaking to Moses as if going forward would be the most natural answer to his little problem. However, this is the scene where Moses is stuck between an army and the Red Sea. Have you ever found yourself feeling stuck between an army and the Red Sea?
Find sweet rest in knowing that it is not your job to make the way. It is God who parts the Red Sea and makes a path where there was no path a few seconds ago. He thwarts the evil plans of Pharaoh with a huge fire tornado! How cool is that? Moses and the whiny Israelites made it across. Annie made it. As long as you follow God's lead, you will make it!
So go wrap your arms around that spouse of yours and yell: "We're gonna make it!" That money issue is not going to be the end of you. That crisis is not going to be the end of you. Not even that oh-so-challenging-personality-bless-his-heart on the third row is going to be the end of you. Take a breath and move forward in the Lord. Leave the parting of the Red Seas and fire tornadoes up to God. You will make it. While you're at it, give a little extra to the Annie Armstrong Easter offering this month and help someone else make it.
"But the future lies all before us…Shall it only be a slight advance upon what we usually do? Ought it not to be a bound, a leap forward to altitudes of endeavor and success undreamed of before?" – Annie Armstrong
Fallon Curry and her husband, Craig, serve at First Baptist Church in Dripping Springs. They have two children, Lylah (6 years) and Shepherd (3 years). Fallon has been a pastor's wife for 10 years.
Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., & Mead, C. M. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Exodus (Vol. 2, p. 49). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
McBeth, Leon. Women in Baptist Life. Broadman Press. Nashville, TN. 1979.
Sorrill, Bobbie. Annie Armstrong: Dreamer in Action.Broadman Press. Nashville, TN. 1935.