Sunday, March 11, 2012

Preacher Thoughts: Never justify my actions by the size or "success" of my ministry

The link title pretty much speaks for itself, doesn't it? Yet it is well worth it to provide some quotes from this post.

It has surprised me how many times certain church leaders have appealed to large or growing numbers of followers to defend themselves from criticism. Critiques of their decisions or statements are shrugged off as irrelevant since “we just added 5000 people to our church,” or “I pastor 13,000 people meeting in six locations.” These numbers are utterly irrelevant. There is no place in the Bible that lists “large numbers of conversions” or “growing amount of members” as the gauge of success or as a reason everyone should just do what you say.
The NT rarely lists numbers and when it does it is more out of surprise at grace than anything else. And nowhere in these texts does one find the idea that this increase made the leaders where it occurred better pastors or teachers than the others. In fact, if numerical growth were the gauge of success, Jesus was a dismal failure – His crowds shrunk to zero.

Thus, when a man is challenged on his public actions, and all he can do is appeal to numbers, that reveals an alarming pride. The notion that “big equals success” is Western, not Biblical. What disturbs me about this is not that it is new, but that some of the men defending themselves in this way really ought to know better. They have preached better.

Defending one's ministry based on numbers levels the field so that the most successful preacher is the one who has the biggest draw.  Some of the pastors who have used the "mine is bigger than yours" defense don't realize at how many levels this boast/defense becomes a problem. There's always some guy whose ministry is bigger than yours. There's probably a few women who have bigger ministries than yours, too, for that matter. 

What is the lesson? Don’t believe my own press. Don’t fall prey to thinking that even one convert makes me a better pastor than the man who, as yet, has seen none. At the same time, expect to see many conversions! We believe the Gospel is the power of God used by His grace to save sinners and we preach it like sinners will indeed be saved. But if the membership of my church is bigger than the membership of another church, that doesn’t mean I am a better pastor, a smarter pastor, or a pastor with greater ingenuity, charm, methods, or passion. In the end, it just means I bear greater responsibility and accountability.

This lesson is critical in any walk of life but especially in pastoral work. I don't even have to be a pastor to note that.  The scriptures warn that:

He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

Paul Martin's closing observation:

Most of all, I must never allow my apparent “success” turn into a carte blanche defense of all criticism – especially if those critiques are coming from smaller corners of the vineyard. The Apostle Paul did not boast in numbers, but in Jesus. And when he did defend his ministry from accustation, he pointed to his personal suffering for the Gospel, not his "success." Godly leaders will listen carefully to their critics and compare their accusations to the Word, not their attendance charts.

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