Author and pastor Steven Furtick tackled the "why bother" syndrome that can plague the faith of many pastors during his address Wednesday morning at the Radicalis conference.
Furtick, who leads Elevation Church in Charlotte, N.C., spoke from Mark 5 on Jairus, the synagogue leader who asks Jesus to come to his house and heal his sick daughter. But along the way, a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years "cuts in line" and gets healed by touching Jesus' cloak. Meanwhile, Jairus learns that his daughter has died at home.
He said pastors attending the event at Saddleback Church can become inspired by the conference but then can fall into depression and despair as they compare the size of their ministry and church to the magnitude of what they see at Saddleback.
"At the same time you are hearing God's word and faith is growing and rising up inside of you, your situation may be actually deteriorating and may not be improving at all," said Furtick.
Pastors could hear a similar voice of doubt to what Jairus heard when he learns his daughter is dead, "Why bother the teacher anymore?"
"See, every time, God's voice speaks into your life, speaking to you about the realities that this is possible through the glory of God. At the same time, God is telling you it is possible, the enemy is telling you why bother?" said the North Carolina pastor to the more than 2,000 people at the conference and those watching the live webcast from at least 146 nations.
He candidly pointed out, "Some of you are hearing the devil saying it to you loud and clear - every time God is saying it is possible through him who believes - why bother? You are 47 years old. This may have been possible when you were 30 but you have teenagers now."
Other pastors may be so successful in their ministry that they will want to live off the compound interest of what they've worked so hard for, he said. They may also think, "Why bother? Why get out of the boat?"
During the start-up days of Elevation Church, Furtick said he encountered the "Why Bother?" question several times from those close to him and from the Enemy's voice within him.
His mentor called to tell him that 9 out of 10 churches fail within the first few years of opening.
Although Furtick felt called to plant a church in Charlotte, he would often wonder whether Charlotte needed another church when there were already 680 in the area.
"I would drive through Charlotte and see big churches, great churches, then I heard it – 'Why bother? Do you think Charlotte needs another church?'"
The young pastor again heard that voice when his new church of only 200 wanted to purchase a warehouse as their first church home. His plan was to take 150 of the most devoted members to see the warehouse and then announce a capital building campaign. But before the buses took off, he received word from the executive pastor that a nearby company called Sofa Express didn't want a church moving in so they blocked their lease.
He momentarily heard that voice of "Why bother," but then he also heard the voice of God saying it is possible. So, he took 150 people from his church to the loading dock of the building to pray over it.
Nothing happened for a year and a half afterward, Furtick admitted. But for five days a week during that period, he said he would drive by the building, stretch out his hand toward the complex and pray out loud, "Father, in Jesus' name," for the building.
"I received a text one morning from our executive pastor saying Sofa Express just went bankrupt nationwide in 77 stores," he said.
"I'm not saying God did that, I'm just saying it's possible. A year after that, we were baptizing people where we were standing and praying."
The Bible is a book from cover to cover of men and women who could have said "why bother" but instead chose to believe, Furtick stressed. From Abraham who could have given up on the promise of having many descendents, to David who could have given up because he was seen as the least likely to be king.
"Jesus could have said why bother when the very people he died to save, beat him to the flesh and tore him to the bones. Our savior bothered for the sake of the calling on his life," said Furtick.
He urged pastors at Radicalis to not rely on their senses but instead on the word of God. He told them not to listen to their feelings of "why bother," or what they see as reality, or let the winds and the waves cause them to fear.
Furtick concluded, "Even if you begin to sink, He will lift you up with strong hands. Just believe, do not be afraid, do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
Furtick's Elevation church has seen thousands of professions of faith and grown to more than 6,000 in weekly attendance. Because of this explosive growth, Elevation Church was named one of the 10 fastest growing churches in America by Outreach Magazine in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
He is also the author of Sun Stand Still, in which he talks about revolutionary faith and how to approach every experience from a visionary perspective.
Rick Warren and his wife Kay Warren were among the speakers on Tuesday, the first day of the 2011 Radicalis conference at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. The event concludes Friday.