Don’t quit

Church planter and author, Dai Hankey, shares his advice on how to keep on going when ministry gets tough.

Books Wellbeing
Image of Dai Hankey Dai Hankey
6th June 2024 6 minute read
A wall with graffiti saying 'Don't be afraid'

I still remember that morning like it was yesterday. 

I woke up from a troubled night’s sleep, stressed out of my head and, rather than jumping out of bed like I did most days, that morning I just lay there. 

I was curled up in the foetal position. My body completely still and my mind in utter turmoil. 

I wrote my resignation letter (in my head) citing all the reasons why I had no choice but to quit. I was exhausted. I mean totally knackered. I’d taken too many shots. Some of them really personal. I was young and too unqualified to lead a church. Even though I had planted it. And my family deserved better than this wreckage of a man who couldn’t even get out of bed and face the day…

I could almost sense satan himself draw a circle around me on that bed-sheet prison and snarl “stay there!”

By the grace of God I eventually reached for the only weapon at my disposal – the Bible lying next to my bed. I prised it open. I read it. God spoke to my soul with pin-point prophetic precision. And I cried raw tears of repentance and relief. 

By the grace of God I got out of bed that day and entered the battle once again.

It wasn’t the first time I’d experienced a moment like this. And, sadly, it wasn’t the last. In fact it’s probably fair to say that I have felt like throwing in the towel on an alarmingly regular basis since I first began doing gospel ministry some 25 years ago. 

But here I am – still planting, preaching and pleading with God to do beautiful gospel miracles in one of Cardiff’s most challenging inner-city communities. I honestly don’t think that makes me heroic, by-the-way. Nor do I think it makes me crazy. More than anything I think it gives glory to God who is forever faithful and strong, and who is more committed to the gospel transformation of council estates and urban ghettos than we could possibly dream! So if you’re struggling at all right now, here are a few things that I have found helpful:

Calling

Jesus saved me at the age of 15. I didn’t know what God wanted me to do with my life back then but I had a big mouth so it made sense that He wanted me to preach the same gospel that had transformed me. Several years later the Holy Spirit smashed me with this verse:

“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” (Romans 15:20)

It has been my ‘life verse’ ever since. Whenever I feel like jacking it all in I just can’t get muscle my way past these words. They calmly govern my often frantic mind and act as a healthy foil to my impulsive and rebellious nature. Furthermore, when I sensed the call of God on my life to “preach the gospel where Christ was not known” I ran it by my church leaders who confirmed the call. To this day I remain submitted to their pastoral oversight. If they told me to stop, I’d like to think I would. Likewise if I ever tell them that I want to quit and they encourage me to “hold fast” I would have to take that seriously too! A God-given call obeyed under the loving care of church leaders has been vital for me staying in the game!

Scripture

God’s Word is full of encouragement for those who want to quit. So much of the Bible is written from the down and (almost) out. Here is just a tiny handful of the ‘in emergency break glass’  scriptures that I find myself turning to when things feel unbearably bleak:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11: 28)

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12: 8–10)

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6: 9) 

“Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!” (Psalm 126: 5)

I love to gaffer-tape those last two together. It’s like they’re saying: ‘Keep going and keep sowing – even if it feels like you are watering seeds with your own tears!’

What verses do you cling to?

Jesus

Finally (and most importantly) – Jesus never told us to expect an easy ride. He carried a cross for us, so it should come as no surprise that he calls us to take up our cross and follow Him. In fairness to Jesus He told us exactly how it was going to be:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15: 18)

“the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7: 14)

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16: 33)

I worry sometimes that us Christians in the West have fallen for a kind of stealth prosperity gospel – we rightly swerve the dudes in white suits shouting “pledge your wedge” – but I wonder if we still expect a degree of comfort…prestige even…to sweeten the sacrifices that we make for Jesus. Friends, all gospel ministry is flippin’ hard. And gospel ministry in tough neighbourhoods is seriously flippin’ hard! We shouldn’t be worried when things are hard, rather we should be worried when things aren’t hard! Struggle is normal Christianity: 

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you…” (1Peter 4: 12). 

So when we struggle. When the cross feels heavy, the way too wearying and the cost too high, it is good to know where to look for help:

“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Hebrews 12: 3)

We have a Saviour who suffered in ways we cannot even fathom and (thankfully) will never experience. He faced down our hell on that cross as fought and bled and died and prevailed for us. If we’re going to suffer for anyone – let it be Him! If anyone is worth it – He is!

We need to keep in mind that it is far better to suffer with Jesus than to prosper without Him. 

So let’s keep Him in full focus. Let’s fix our eyes on that cross that screams love and mercy and forgiveness and freedom and joy and salvation and eternal hope over our lives. Let’s live with His great love and His incredible sacrifice looming large over over our trials and troubles. And let’s remember how the story ends for those who endure:

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1: 12)

So to summarise:

Remember your calling.
Cling to the promises of Scripture.
Look to Jesus.
And don’t quit.
Big love!

Written by

Dai Hankey

Dai Hankey is a church-planting pastor in Cardiff, where he lives with his wife, Michelle, and four young children. He is founder of Red Community, a Christian charity that fights human trafficking in Wales. Dai is a former skateboarder and loves to DJ.

Image of Dai Hankey
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