What are the real priorities in the ministry?
We don’t look upon priorities as rungs on a ladder, but rather as spokes in a wheel. The hub of the wheel is your walk with God: everything else comes out from that. Paul did many things, but they were all controlled by that decisive “this one thing I do!”
How does one measure success in the ministry?
It is odd but true, that most of the successful pastors in history felt themselves to be failures. Perhaps it is because a growing man is never satisfied with where he is: he wants to reach higher to the glory of God.
If the pastor is growing personally, then the church will be growing. If there is a sameness and tameness about your life, watch out! If there is no excitement in the study of the Word and the preparing of messages; if pastoral work is boring; if you find yourself arriving at the office late and leaving early; if you discover you are defensive; then spiritual erosion has set in, and both you and your church are in danger. If the work is a challenge, and if you eagerly anticipate ministering the Word publicly and from house to house, then it is likely that God is blessing and the work is growing.
There is a book in the Bible called Numbers–but numbers are not everything. Where there is life, there is growth. Spurgeon used to say that the only preachers who criticized statistics were those who had none to report! Perhaps he was right. The Holy Spirit counted numbers in the book of Acts, but the numbers were the results of the ministry of dedicated men and women. We want our churches to grow, not so that we can count people, but because people count. Sometimes there is a slow, steady growth; at other times, God gives rich harvest. But numerical increase is one indication that God is at work, provided the increase is not the result of manmade, carnal gimmicks.
Increase in offerings is also a test of spiritual success. If the sheep are fed, they will give. When they are starving, they start biting each other!
When your ministry is being blessed of God, there is an atmosphere of love, confidence, and service in the church. For the most part, the people will love each other and seek to minister to each other. You will always have problems, because a church is made up of people; but these problems will not be crises that threaten to sink the ship. The ability of a church to face and solve problems is an indication of spiritual growth. Also, the appearance of new problems indicates that you are going somewhere. Never be afraid of disagreements in the church: where there is movement, there is friction. The lack of friction may mean the church is no longer on the move!
If you have set definite goals for your ministry, the achieving of these goals will be an indication that you are making progress. The pastor who simply drifts from week to week will always be discouraged, because he does not know for sure where he is going.
2 Corinthians 10:7-13 is a clear warning against the wrong kind of self-evaluation. It is easy for a church to become a mutual admiration society. The true measure of a church’s ministry is not what it is doing as compared to some other church (which may be smaller!), but what it is doing as compared with its own potential. The church that could have a thousand in Sunday school, but rests content with two hundred, is a failure.
Never forget that churches go through stages of growth, not unlike that of the human body. The “babyhood” stage of a new church is exciting – just like having a baby in the house! But then things settle down, and you reach a “childhood” stage when the church must be taught and trained. There is an “adolescent” stage when your people seem to manufacture problems! Once you reach a place of spiritual maturity, keep it there! Be sure that the church is winning souls so that new life is coming into the body regularly. Once a church gets into that stage of spiritual “old age,” you will have serious problems. The next step is “second childhood” (Heb. 5:12)! It is a wise pastor who senses the times and the seasons, and who preaches and plans accordingly.
One word of encouragement: the Lord rarely lets a pastor see how much good he is doing. When you feel the most discouraged, God is probably using you in the greatest way. Be faithful. God will take care of the rest (1 Cor. 4:2).
©©2002 WWW used by permission. This article copyrighted by the author and is for your individual use. Reproduction for any other purpose is governed by copyright laws and is strictly prohibited. This material originally appeared in When Pastors Wonder How by Howard F. Sugden & Warren W. Wiersbe, (Chicago, IL.:Moody Press, 1974), p. 157-160.
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).