We often see several people sign up for Sidewalk Outreach Training following a Love Life prayer walk. Our sidewalk team delivers a two-minute plea at the prayer walk, tells a compelling, victorious story, and asks volunteers to sign up to join us in this incredibly rewarding, but difficult, ministry.
The new recruits come and shadow our teams. They are often so filled with zeal that they ask if they could come two or three times that week. Long-term, they want to volunteer at least two times a week. They tell us how God has been tugging at their hearts regarding this ministry for a long time. They are ready to sign up for two or maybe even three times a week on a regular basis. We urge them to remain faithful to show up just once a week.
After about a month, they begin to come up with excuses for why they can’t be there. After two months, they no longer give excuses; they just say they can’t be there that day without explanation. Then usually there’s a period of silence, and they disappear. When we contact them, they tell us that God is pointing them in a different direction now.
This is so common that it is important to be prepared for it if you are trying to build a sidewalk outreach team. Many people tell us that the Holy Spirit is what is guiding their commitment. Apparently, the spirit decides they no longer need to be committed, and they stop coming altogether. They’re being led in a new direction.
What Happened to the Holy Spirit Prompting?
I always want to ask: did the Holy Spirit change? Did the Holy Spirit prompting which they had finally and so recently heeded suddenly decide, “Oops, I made a mistake?“
Commitment is a rare commodity. We have some very faithful, loyal volunteers who show up day after day, week after week, year after year. They are a core group without which our sidewalk ministry would collapse. It is frustrating to all of us to see the new people come and go so quickly. We soldier on with small teams, grateful for what we have, but wondering why this is the case when there are churches on every corner.
How Can We Promote Commitment?
I think when we train new volunteers, we should emphasize the fact that this is a commitment that other people are depending upon, and that is made before the Lord. The Bible tells us that before we make a commitment, we should count the cost. Once that commitment is made, the Bible tells us: Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’.
Maybe I’m describing one of you. If I am, I would urge you to think about what God is calling you to do and if you have been faithful, not only in obeying the initial call but in enduring throughout the call.
Endurance is never developed by being tossed and blown about to every new thing, and then falling away when it becomes arduous. Endurance develops through a stick-to-itiveness attitude when the going gets tough. That attitude is one God can help us develop if we put our trust and faith in Him.
Jesus, when facing the cross, had a very human desire not to have to endure what He was about to endure; however, He made it all about the Father’s will rather than His own. When God did not revoke the call, Jesus went willingly to the cross.
We are told to pick up our cross daily. “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me’ (Luke 9:23).”
I believe that endurance and commitment in the face of struggles, doing what is right and what God has called us to do is a big part of what this verse means.
The Warning and Reality of this Ministry
We need to be careful not to sugarcoat sidewalk ministry. Sidewalk outreach is not easy. We will not always see tangible results. We will suffer in terrible weather, with terrible opposition, and spiritual attacks. None of those things mean that the Holy Spirit has stopped calling you to do this work.
In fact, I would suggest that if you have made a commitment to be a sidewalk outreach team member, then you should show up no matter what, unless it truly is absolutely impossible for you to do so. The rewards are great, but they usually are not immediate, and, sometimes, they are not obvious.
Patiently Endure and Honor the Commitment
Have faith that what God has called you to, He will enable you to do, and there are incredible rewards. Patiently endure and you will receive eternal validation that your work was not in vain. We are told that when we are faithful in the small things, we will reap greater things. Commitment problems can destroy relationships, marriages, and businesses. Volunteer efforts may seem like a minor commitment, but if we can develop trustworthiness in the small things, we are developing it for the larger things as well.
Ultimately, we are told to commit all things we do to the Lord. Trust Him to bring about His good purposes as you remain steadfast in your integrity to do what you have said you will do.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday (Psalm 37:5-6).