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Want to be encouraged? Drive to the next town and look at what God is doing through ordinary churches there.

I recently drove to a community west of Toronto to lead a wedding rehearsal. On the way to the dinner after, I heard someone call my name. It was a pastor in that town. He was out on a Friday night to engage in evangelistic conversations in the neighborhood. His efforts encouraged me.

I sometimes suffer from myopic vision. I see the challenges in my ministry context. I get overly focused on my problems and challenges. Sometimes we need to take a step back and look at what’s going on around us. God’s at work everywhere.

Two Kinds of Visits

I’ve heard of a pastor who visits a church that has stopped preaching the gospel once a year. It fires him up. It reminds him of the centrality of the gospel. It helps him to cultivate urgency in his ministry, to recognize what’s at stake with the message that’s been entrusted to us.

I can see the value in that kind of visit. Go somewhere where the gospel isn’t being preached, where the empty vestiges of religion are all that remain. Go to remind yourself that what you’re doing matters, and that we can’t afford to lose the message we’ve been given to proclaim.

But I’m talking about a different kind of visit when you can take when you’re discouraged.

Go to a town. Look for a church. Any church will do, because God works in all kinds of churches, big and small. But if you really want to be encouraged, look for church that’s not well known, pastored by someone who isn’t famous. Find one that’s relatable to your context.

And look out for the faithfulness of that church. See how the pastor faithfully preaches week in and week out. Look at how the pastor has stayed at it for years despite reasons to get discouraged and quit. Look at how God’s people have sacrificed to make that ministry possible. Watch for those who serve faithfully, who model godliness in quiet and consistent ways.

I sat with a pastor and the chair of the elders at lunch last week. I listened to what they’re doing to lead and serve the people of their church. They’ve both spent years cultivating health within that church. They’ve prayed together as elders. They’ve read books. They’ve done the hard work of shepherding the people well. I walked away from that meeting encouraged by what God is doing within their church.

That kind of faithfulness exists all around us. Whenever you get discouraged, take a drive and look for evidence of God’s faithful people serving all around you.

God’s at Work

Luke repeats a phrase in Acts: “But the word of God increased and multiplied” (Acts 12:24). Despite all the challenges and setbacks, God’s word continued to spread in the early days of the church, just as it’s been doing for the past two thousand years.

It’s easy to focus on the problems in our immediate context, or on the problems within society or even within the larger church. We need a different perspective. God’s at work all around us. The gospel’s being preached. God’s people are serving faithfully. The headlines don’t tell the full story. God’s word is increasing and multiplying.

Feeling discouraged? Take a field trip, and ask God to show you how he’s at work.