Faithfulness Trumps Results | By Mike Minter
Perseverance is key to a pastor pursing church growth. Focusing on faithfulness is key to pastors who thrive.
How well I remember my first mission trip into the deepest jungles of Bolivia. Five families were stationed along a river in an effort to contact a nomadic tribe that had not yet heard the promises of Christ. When I arrived, the team leader asked if I would give devotions the following evening. Piece of cake, I thought, since I had plenty of sermons in my back pocket, ready to be pulled out at a moment’s notice. Preparation won’t even be necessary.
I could give one of my favorite messages on the dangers of loving the world. Oh, that’s right, there are no malls down here.
No problem. I could talk about the importance of commitment. Commitment? To a group of people who have given up everything for the sake of the gospel?
The more I thought about my messages, the sooner I realized that they had all been delivered in the comfortable and sterile environment of Northern Virginia. In my Sunday morning teaching, I often had to warn against the dangers of prosperity, the allure of the corporate ladder, or the pitfalls of power. But what could I say to a group of people who had sacrificed their comfort and security to see the kingdom advanced?
I began to panic, but the Lord soon led me to 1 Corinthians 4:2: “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (NKJV).
I was able to minister to their discouraged hearts and remind them that results might take years to see, not weeks. As Hebrews 11:13 says of the saints of old: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (NJKV).
Indeed, God is not interested in our results, but in our faithfulness.
Maybe you minister in a concrete jungle, instead of one that is waterlogged and snake-infested, but it is a jungle, nonetheless, overgrown with sin and full of people needing a way out. So, how do you handle it when your efforts seem to be failing and “there are no grapes on the vines” of your ministry (Hab. 3:17)? What will keep you going?
Faithfulness is key. Here are three reminders that can help you persevere through tough times.
You are a worker in God’s vineyard.
Working in the Lord’s vineyard is often difficult and discouraging. Not every pastor will experience the growth of a megachurch. Vineyards come in all shapes and sizes, and the Lord knows exactly what you need to fulfill what he has called you to.
Likewise, churches come in all sizes, and pastors have various gifts. God uses each of us to lead His people as He sees fit.
You are a shepherd, not a CEO.
I don’t have a take-charge personality. I’m not constantly looking for the next hill to climb. But that does not mean I have never been tempted to leave my sandbox.
One day several years ago, I woke up to the realization that I had exchanged my rod and staff for a cell phone and computer.
I was operating more like the president and CEO of a large organization than the pastor of a local church. The flock I was shepherding had morphed into a corporate enterprise, and the search for biblical truth was eclipsed by questions like, “Where are we headed as an organization? Do we have a mission statement? What are our long-range goals?”
Such questions were completely foreign to my thinking. I am not a goal setter, vision caster, core-value promoter, or mission statement writer. That’s just not me. I can barely think past lunch, much less draw up a five-year plan.
I am not suggesting those things are wrong in and of themselves, but it does concern me that for every seminar on prayer or holiness, it seems like there are a hundred on leadership. This paradigm shift from shepherd to “leader” is huge, and few pastors know how to handle it.
As shepherds, we should concern ourselves with the welfare of the flock. God has given us tools to guide and protect the sheep, and we should learn to use them effectively. We don’t need to beat the sheep into submission. We don’t need to give them more to do. We need to help them learn to rest in God. We need to show them where to find good pastures.
Rather than directing our energies toward activities that sustain an organization, we should find ways to help sheep thrive.
You are a knowledgeable travel guide.
People are so accustomed to powerful leaders in the world that they look for the same characteristics in their pastors. But what if, by nature, you aren’t a “gifted leader” as the world defines it?
This is exactly where I find myself. I have faithfully taught the Scriptures, and, by God’s grace, the church has grown through the years to where it eventually averaged 2,400 in weekly attendance with four weekend services.
Still, I have at times seen myself as a corporate executive, running a multi-million-dollar organization. Worse, I had no real ability or giftedness to keep this thing we call “church” going.
The CEO model was foreign to me. It was not the way I imagined my life as a pastor when I gave my first sermon to twenty-five people in a hotel meeting room in 1975.
I found the leadership responsibilities crushing. Many people asked me, “Where are we going as a church?” My response was always the same: “I didn’t know we were on a trip!”
In truth, we are on a journey. We are fellow sojourners, following God as he leads us through the wilderness. As pastors, you and I are called to be faithful travel guides. We can scout the route and help our people navigate challenging paths. Together, we can enjoy the trip as we grow in Christ.
Focus on faithfulness and leave the results to God.
Since faithfulness, and not results, is what God asks of us, we can be assured that his “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9), and we can lead confidently with the skills he has lovingly provided to us.
Click here to learn more about Mike Minter’s new book, Stay the Course: A Pastor’s Guide to Navigating the Restless Waters of Ministry.