Skip to main content

True success in ministry

Back in 2007, I took some of our men at church through a one-year discipleship program called "SaLT" (Servant Leadership Training). We read a book a month, memorized several key Scriptures, and came together once a month for some lively discussion and mentoring.

In 2008, we tried something a little different. Instead of all the men meeting at one time, I encouraged them to break up into small mentor groups, finding one or two "Timothys" they could each disciple. All the groups went through a common book, Living the Cross Centered Life, and I made up a set of discussion questions in advance for each group to use. This mentor-group program was open to both men and women in the church, and it saw mixed success. Some groups met regularly and reported some wonderful times of prayer and encouragement. Other groups never seemed to get off the ground, meeting only once or twice at best.

In 2009, I'm excited to re-introduce our SaLT program, but with a few tweaks to the program. Instead of asking participants to read a whole book each month, we're listening to one audio sermon or lecture (there's a wealth of great mp3 material available online for free!). And instead of memorizing a whole passage of Scripture, we've scaled it down to one verse per month. You can visit our podcast here.

Last Saturday morning was our first SaLT meeting for 2009. We were very blessed to have 8 men attend the group, including several who have some real leadership potential.

For our January meeting, I asked the men in advance to listen to the message "Pastoral Success and the Cross of Christ," preached by R. Kent Hughes at the 1989 Desiring God Conference for Pastors. It's a scaled down version of his excellent book Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome. (If you're in any level of pastoral ministry and have not read this book before, it is a must-read.) Although delivered twenty years ago, Hughes' message could not be more relevant than today, as he addresses many of the pragmatic forms of success that have infiltrated the church.

Hughes recalls a dark time early in his ministry when attendance began to dwindle and he came very close to resigning as pastor and abandoning his call to ministry. But the Lord gave him and his wife Barbara new hope as they began to open the Scriptures and see that true success is not measured by marketing techniques and worldly standards, but by six basic principles:

1. Faithfulness. Hughes' principal text for overcoming the "Success Syndrome" was 1 Cor. 4:1-2. God is not looking for impressive numbers. He's looking for faithful obedience to His Word.

2. Serving. Success is not about having preeminence. The symbol of Christianity is the cross.

3. Loving God. This is the #1 priority in all our life and ministry. If we don't have love, everything else we accomplish will be meaningless (1 Cor. 13:1).

4. Believing. Much of ministry is walking by faith, and not by sight. Our doctrine must affect our living. In the trials of life, we must learn to "believe what we believe."

5. Prayer. Church leaders must learn to be men of prayer. This is an area I want to continue to grow in.

6. Holiness. We are called to be holy, even as God is holy. This includes areas such as sexual purity, where many pastors are particularly vulnerable.

These six principles define true success in ministry. It's not that we should hope our churches (or convention) will shrink in size, but we can rest assured that if we're faithful to God's Word and let Him take care of the results, we will find true success in His eyes.

Side note: This is my 200th post on this blog. With SaLT starting back up, and church ministry growing busier every day, I may be a little less active on this blog in 2009. But I still see it as a valuable tool in my discipleship toolbox.

The best way to stay informed of new articles I'm writing is to sign up for my weekly email or subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks to my faithful readers out there!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Herod who??

I must admit, I still get confused by all those Herods mentioned in the New Testament. To keep them straight, I find it helpful to read the biblical text with a genealogy of Herod's family at my side (here's one from the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible).


Well, so much for simplicity. Even this chart looks more like an engineering schematic than a family tree. To boil it all down, there are four key members of Herod's family mentioned in the Gospels...

Herod the Great. This is the original Herod of them all. The very name sent shivers up the spine of ancient Jews. Son of Antipater, he was a cunning politician, ruthless dictator, and brilliant architect. He was responsible for constructing the temple mount in Jerusalem, fortress palaces at Herodium and Masada, and a harbor at Caesarea -- all which continue to astound archaeologists and engineers today. In addition to killing several kin who threatened his throne, Herod murdered all the young boys in Bethlehem at the news that…

A review of the HCSB Study Bible

Today, I finally had a chance to browse through a copy of the new HCSB Study Bible.

The HCSB Study Bible is 2272 pages long (plus a few maps). As expected, the translation is the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) version. It ranks well and rivals the ESV in both exegetical accuracy and literary quality. Some of its unique features are:
Its translation of yahweh as "Yahweh" (instead of LORD) in the OT when referring to the personal name of God (e.g. Ex. 3:15)The translation of doulos as "slave" instead of "servant" or "bondservant" in the New Testament (e.g. Rom. 1:1)The translation of christos as "Messiah" in the New Testament, whenever referring to the Jewish expectation of the Messiah (e.g. Matt. 16:16)Capitalized pronouns when referring to GodThe use of contractions in direct discourse (e.g. "let's go" in Mark 1:38)A wonderful feature called bullet notes (small bullets next to key words that may be unfamiliar, poin…

Restoring old photos of Israel

In his latest newsletter, Todd Bolen explains the painstaking process of restoring old photos to create the 8-volume American Colony and Eric Matson Collection. It’s a fascinating project that really makes you appreciate the end result. Here’s his full article…Shortly after producing a collection of modern-day photographs in the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands (initially released in January 2000), I began work on a supplementary collection that would peel back the recent layers of time to reveal the sites of the Holy Land before the changes brought by modernization.  The initial fruit of this work was the release of 8 volumes of Historic Views of the Holy Land in November 2004.About that same time, I learned that the Library of Congress was digitizing the G. Eric and Edith Matson Negatives.  Between 1966 and 1981, Eric Matson and his beneficiary donated this collection to the Library of Congress. But public access was limited and costly until 2004, when the first negatives were scann…