Thursday, September 29, 2005
I have had some conversations lately with fellow ministers. They are concerned that within our fellowship there ministry is judged, by those who are in positions of authority and influence, solely on the basis of numbers. Specifically attendance seems to be the driving concern. The conversation usually comes from a pastor who has been pastoring a church for a while and the attendance has declined or stagnated. They are discouraged and are thinking of looking for a new position. However they feel like they cannot get another ministry position because they are considered failures based on the numbers they send to the fellowship each year.This is a tough spot to be in and I can sympathize as my church is growing but very slowly. I came across an article the other day that caused me to pause and ponder along these lines of thought. The article refered to crop estimators who have been in the fields in parts of Illinois. We have had a bit of a drought this year. Most of the counties have been declared disaster areas by the governor due to this lack of rain. The crop estimators are finding many fields where seed was planted, plants grew but there is no grain to harvest. In other fields the yields are very low. The biggest problem is that all around Illinois other states have a bumper crop. So there is no shortage of grain to cause prices to be higher and make up for low yields. Obviously many farmers are going to struggle this year.The correaltion is this: what do you do as a pastor if you are faithfully doing what you think God wants you to do but are experiencing little tangible evidence that you are succeding? I know of pastors who spent years faithfully planting the seed of the word but they have seen few souls saved. The frustration is compounded as they see other churches around them experiencing dramatic growth. The pastors in churches that have stagnated or declined are often looked down on by the officials of their denominations. Many times they consider themselves to be failures.The situation of self-doubt is intensified when we look at the celebration of mega church pastors. Those whose churches are growing are in demand as conference speakers and authors. They have the crowds aroung them at ministers meetings. These are the heroes of the American church. But what if the lack of harvest is through no fault of the pastor? Isn't it God who brings the increase. We are to bear fruit but what if their is no rain and the crops never mature?I welcome comments and will continue down this line of thought later.