02 April, 2013

Keep On Keeping On My Friend

One of my good friends and co-laborers in ministry phoned me last night extremely frustrated, discouraged and ready to throw in the towel as far as ministry goes. He spoke about how he was reading Facebook and saw pastor after pastor bragging how they'd set an attendance record, had 5 saved, 20 saved, broke a giving record, and so on. He said, "Darrell, I feel like such a failure. We had less in attendance today than we did a week ago and not one person got saved." Earlier in the day I spoke with another friend who is also a pastor and he told me how someone had made a scene in his church and chewed him out because he was 15 minutes late for service and told him his priorities were completely messed up and he should resign. Never mind that fact that the reason he was late because a man had come to church and began experiencing chest pains, so he rushed him to the hospital. Lord knows it's far more important to look good to everyone than it is to save a man's life! Still another pastor confided in me that he was considering leaving the ministry because he could not match the numbers and accounts of "success" that all these others were having. It really breaks my heart that our church system seems to measure success by this standard, leaving men and women to feel like failures.

Now let me say, I'm not trying to bash anyone who posted their numbers... far from it. I know they are excited and rightfully so. But I do want to say, that is not always a sign of success. For one thing, I think we (the church) have totally missed to boat and thinking that we are in the "conversions" business. We were not commissioned by the Lord to go out and run up a tally of "souls saved," but rather, Jesus told us to go out and "make disciples."  The true test is: Are we making disciples? I was reading an article not long ago about a well known evangelist who toured the world and preached great crusades with thousands receiving Christ at each crusade. My question is, "Who discipled those converts?"  My view on how we do ministry greatly changed in 1998 when I was preparing to go to Germany to preach and plant a church. When I made contact with the field director for my denomination about my going to Germany, let's just say he was "less than enthused" about the prospect of my coming. I was really taken back by his reaction. In fact, I became very angry at him and others I contacted... until I came to understand why they felt the way they did. To make a long story short, the reason for their pessimistic attitude was because of events that had taken place in Berlin over the past decade. When the Berlin wall fell, evangelists came by the scores with their camera crews and held crusades to a people who had been under communism for decades. Thousands upon thousands of spiritually bankrupt people came to these crusades and experienced a spiritual awakening... only to be abandoned. The evangelists with their camera crews went home to America and showed their films and raked in enormous amounts of money... but no one remained to "make disciples".  So here were these thousands of spiritually awakened and hungry people, looking for a foundation... and here came the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Islamic people, and they snatched up these people by the thousands and led them astray. That field director was not interested in another guy wanting to "make a splash," he wanted someone to come in and establish a training center to make disciples.

I submit that we are making the same mistake here in America with our event driven ministries that make big splashes... and then leave people to fin for themselves. I've often said, I'd rather pastor 50 people and know that I'm truly making an investment and impact in the Kingdom than pastor hundreds and not be effective at making disciples. No, I'm not saying you cannot make disciples in a large church. I am saying that most don't. We have got to refocus our ministry and how to determine what "success" is and what it is not. It's about teaching people how to live as "little Christs" not about the numbers we can boast about. That's it, pure and simple. They left Jesus too, when he began to talk about dying to yourself. Trust me, you are not alone. If they left him, they are going to leave you. Just keep doing what you know to do.

To my friends I spoke to yesterday and to countless others who are feeling down and discouraged, let me leave you with this:
1 Corinthians 15:58 "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

1 comment:

Darrell said...

Let me add... sometimes we don't see the impact at all... and sometimes not until later. Sunday, I did not have one person respond to the altar call. However, yesterday I received a phone call from someone who had questions about the message and how to be saved and exactly what that meant. Then last night I received a private message on FB from someone else who was there who told me they had wanted to come to the altar for prayer but had not. You have to wonder how many times we simply plant the seed and we may not see the harvest until later on down the road.