ORLANDO, Florida — An Assemblies of God pastor from Ohio exhorted hundreds of fellow ministers to stay faithful in the trenches as churches seek to recover from the trials of 17 months of dealing with COVID-19.
Greg A. Ford headlined the afternoon session Aug. 3 at the Influence Conference, the spiritual renewal equipping arm for credentialed ministers. A decade ago, Ford planted One Church in Gahanna, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus.
Ford noted that since the onset of the coronavirus and subsequent in-person church services shutdowns in many areas of the country, pastors often have been forced to slash budgets, lay off staff, and assume church duties normally unrelated to leading a ministry. Consequently, many ministers are burned out and ready to move to a different venue, or even quit the ministry, he said.
“Maybe God’s not interested in changing your assignment,” Ford said. “Maybe He wants to renew your strength.”
For his talk, Ford referred to 1 Samuel 9, in which Kish asked his son Saul to go with a servant to look for donkeys that had wandered away. Despite lengthy searches, their pursuit appeared to be fruitless, a seeming waste of time for someone accustomed to more important responsibilities.
“Sometimes God sends us into things that we frankly wish He would give to someone else,” Ford said.
Ford, a football player and graduate of Southwestern Assemblies of God University, recalled his unorthodox approach to finding congregants for One Church. When he and his wife, Shaylyn, moved to Columbus — where they knew no one — Greg found a job working the front desk of an 8,000-member fitness club. Because he remembered the names of regulars, he built relationships with the clientele, even doing marriage counseling on the job.
A year later — because of Ford’s gym contacts — One Church had an abnormally large number of fit individuals and athletes attending. That included various top CrossFit competitors, those involved in a high-intensity workout regime. In 2014, One Church opened a daughter campus at a CrossFit gym. One Church, which received initial assistance from the AG’s Church Multiplication Network, grew to 1,850 weekly attendees.
But in the early going, in order to support his family, Ford recalled how he took a third job in addition to pastoring and the fitness club. One day when another employee failed to show up for work, Ford’s boss required him to empty the garbage cans on an 18-hole golf course. Although tempted to quit on the spot, Ford stuck with it, as he said the Lord flashed Ecclesiastes 9:10 before his mind: Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.
Periodically throughout his talk, Ford reached into a makeshift trash can on stage to remove garbage, which he put into a large plastic bag. He suggested multiple “donkey assignments” await pastoral leaders who are worn out dealing with the aftermath of COVID-19. Many pastors weary of fighting for survival, feel as though they have no energy, passion, or resilience to keep going, Ford said. But it’s not time to quit, he suggested.
“You may think you’re on the edge, but you’re really on the verge of a breakthrough.”
Ford reminded the crowd of what happened to Saul in his donkey search. Eventually, he encountered the prophet Samuel, who revealed the missing donkeys had been found. More importantly, Samuel ended up anointing Saul as Israel’s first king. Ford found a modern parallel for pastors weary of mundane tasks.
“If you can’t stay faithful with the donkey assignment, you won’t make a very good king,” said Ford, who is on the CMN lead team. God can shift everything for pastors who are faithful to their assignment, he said.
Ford also spoke at the 2017 Influence Conference.