Friday, June 25, 2010
SEVEN LIES THAT CAN TRAP A MINISTRY---PART THREE
We're continuing to look at some very subtle lies which, if believed, can trap a ministry or minister in ways that may not be thought about early on in that minister's life. But the need for knowing the truth is overwhelming in my view. I will show why this is true in a bit
We've seen two lies so far. You can read the last two posts for understanding. They are...
1. They said it..I believe it to be true.
2. They did it..I should do it too to be spiritual.
Now we turn to the third lie and it is.."They'll come..if you preach the Word."
As has been the case in the first two posts, these lies are drawn from my own experience and recovery so I'm continuing with a personal flavor to what is written here.
Success has been generally measured in Southern Baptist life by numbers. Whether it's the numbers that are reflected in salary or experience or the Convention itself, [14 million Convention members half of whom can't be found] it's a fact that numbers play a big role is measuring success both in the view of congregations and individual ministers.
But no numbers are more talked about than is the attendance on a given Sunday in the local churches. Traditionally that attendance was posted on the wall for all to see. Thankfully that has changed somewhat, but still, when gathering for a ministers conference, inevitably the ministers remark about how many were present last Sunday and how it was more, if the ministry is thought of as truly successful, than last year's attendance.
I'm assuming that we all know there is nothing inherently wrong with speaking of attendance...unless it becomes a statement about the church or the minister and a definition of the success of either. With respect to those who hold this view, I have to say, that just isn't the biblical definition of success at all as I'll show later.
Then, unfortunately, some add to that the idea that attendance is ASSURED with the preaching of the Word. I cannot tell you how often I've heard said, or worse said myself, "Just preach the Word and people will come because they long to hear the Word of God. Not enough men are giving the Word on a regular basis."
When you put together those two concepts you have a lethal formula for defeat, depression and even despair. It winds up as.."The attendance isn't growing/increasing/ I MUST NOT be effectively preaching the Word." Often it becomes a comparison thing when one hears..."The crowds are going to hear_______, and I don't believe he's preaching a thimble full of real truth. I'm guilty of something or the Lord wouldn't be punishing me." [Wrong theology of success and sins being punished go hand in hand it seems to me.]
Let me say a couple of things at this point.
One is that I believed this for a while BECAUSE of my own success with numbers attending. I preached..they came. I knew it wasn't me. So it was the Word for sure. It was accomplishing the purpose for which it was sent out. [Remember my belief was purpose is numbers coming.] For sake of example, my pastorate in 1968-1972 grew numerically. My pastorate in 1972-1976 grew numerically also. My pastorate in 1976-1982 exploded numerically. It was in this last mentioned pastorate that I was able to minister to many seminarians who saw that explosion of attendance. The conclusion was that I was preaching the Word so of course the people came. Sounded right/good to me.
Then came another pastorate. Same preacher, [me] same sermons, [mine] same philosophy, same goals in ministry, but different results. I will leave it at that for now. Just know that I had a great period of depression which challenged my own ministry to a massive degree. I came through that time but I had learned a real lesson or two. Let me close with those.
Lesson one that I learned... Congregations are different. Matthew 13 teaches that if nothing else. There are different kinds of soil the seed of the Word is sown into. No entire congregation automatically responds to the word. Some do long for it, but some can often fight against it out of pride, sin, or apathy. Their hearts can be hardened, worldly, cold, or hurt. Anyone of those conditions will affect their response. Whether the church happens to be a first Baptist Church, and old baptist church, a new baptist church, white collar, blue collar, what it happens to be often can affect their response too. Need I go on?
Lesson two that I learned...Sermons that minister to one flock do NOT automatically feed another flock because of the former statement. So if a preacher is preaching the Word but he hasn't heard from the Spirit as to the REAL needs of the congregation and deal with the scriptures accordingly, there may be a disconnect.
Lesson three that I learned...The scriptures indicate that two preachers preaching the same sermons under the same genuine anointing of the Spirit may have a different response that can only be seen as a thing of Providence. Peter preached on Pentecost, many responded in brokenness and salvation. Stephen preached the same sermon [check it out] under the same anointing and the congregation got mad and stoned him to death.
So if something good happens..God in His Providence has blessed for His own purposes. If something bad happens..God in His Providence has blessed for His own purposes. It is the purposes of God we do not always understand and it is ours to simply be faithful in whichever results God has providentially placed us.
And, by the way, THAT is the biblical definition of success "FAITHFULNESS." It takes the power of the Spirit. It takes a committed servant. It takes a Sovereign Savior. When and where you find all three present..you have a ministry/church/Convention/person who/which is a true success biblically.
Another lie to be corrected next time.