In John 4, Jesus is traveling through Samaria. There he discovers a woman at a well. He immediately provokes her and says, “Give me something to drink.” I can hear the attitude as she responds, “First of all, you are a Jew, and Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. So why are you even talking to me?”
This woman in isolation, in loneliness, in shame and guilt with her past sins, comes to the well. She looks up and she sees Jesus. Her immediate reaction is, “What are you doing here?” She came to the well mid-day to avoid the crowd. It’s clear she once had friends that she no longer has. It’s clear she has a past that she’s not proud of. So she’s at the well trying to get what she needs but also trying to get away from everybody else. Some of you can relate, can’t you? You come with isolation, a shrinking community, a bunch of hurt and betrayal, and you’re feeling frustrated with the people of God. You’re feeling unloved, unseen. You’re feeling the damage of ministry. So the temptation is to still show up for ministry but to take your heart and hide it. And before you know it, you’re leading the people but not loving the people.
So the temptation is to still show up for ministry but to take your heart and hide it.
I’ll preach, but you’re not gonna get my heart. I’ll show up for the staff meeting, but I won’t be vulnerable. I don’t know where I can be safe anymore. So I’m gonna keep my job. I’m gonna keep showing up. But you’re not gonna keep stabbing me in my heart.
Can we talk about this, about how we’re showing up at this well isolated? We’re living at a level of pain that we can’t articulate. Sometimes our people hurt us, and we don’t want to talk about it. Yes, we are shepherds, but some of us have discovered that sheep bite. Our problem with multiplying has nothing to do with evangelism. Our problem is that we don’t want to multiply the pain we feel.
Jesus caught the woman off-guard and unprepared. What was HE doing there? But Jesus basically looked at the woman and said, “What are YOU doing here?” God is asking the same thing of some of you. You’re still in it, but your heart isn’t. You’re isolated. You’re going through a hard time. He’s asking what you’re doing here all by yourself. You’re not designed to do ministry without your heart. Put your heart back in the game. You’re not designed to do ministry without your family. Put them back in the game. You’re not designed to serve up cold sandwiches as hospitality. Put yourself back in the game.
This quote from C.S. Lewis convicts me terribly…
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrong and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries. Avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken. It will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. … The only place outside heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is hell.”
Eventually Jesus told the woman to go get her husband, knowing she was not married to the man she was living with. But Jesus was saying so much more: “Go get the thing that’s got you isolated to begin with. Go get your broken heart. The betrayal. The bitterness. Go get the pain. Get it and bring it to me.” Then begin to invest and seek out that safe community. Don’t succumb to isolation. There are people who love you. There are people who see you. You’ve got a purpose. You’ve got a calling. God’s got something greater for you, but you have to put your heart in his hands and let him carry you. Let him protect you. Let him show you what you’re really doing here.
The article above is adapted from Alberts message from Exponential Global 2023 where 5,500+ church multiplication leaders came together for the conversation of Lost Cause: Reviving Evangelism. You can take the learning and conversation further. Access Albert’s full talk and the entire collection of Lost Cause main stage presentations with the FREE 2023 Digital Access Pass along with other Lost Cause Resources here. Be sure to check out how you can bring your team to upcoming Exponential events.