I have been thinking about this for sometime. The old arguments of being faithful get a little stale. So does the ‘if you have a big church’ you are succesful.
Some of my good friends are pastors of churches which run at about 300-400. Does this make them succesful Pastors? I dont think so, not if the church was running at that number when they came in.
Does a church which grows significantly in numbers under their leadership make them succesful? Not necesarily either. In fact I have seen in the past few years numerous Pastors see their churches grow significantly, but when a real analysis of the people coming in is made, it is obvious that their church is just doing church better. I am not hugely criticial of this because we should be doing church well, and we often settle for mediocricy and plain laziness. What does concern me is when we deliberatly foster a consumer mentality because it suits our aims of drawing in a big crowd.
We are not yet a church consuming society as may be the case in the US, where stories of people driving down the freeway looking for a church to attend on the Sunday, in much the same way as they look for a restaurant on Saturday night, are prevelant.
Obviously the real key to success is in spiritual fruit, and the foremost importance is mission, leading people to Christ.
Therefore as the key leader in any church, I believe the SP must have evangelism as his primary gifting and focus. Instead of this we have favoured those who are good chaplains and good politicians. The less fuss you make, the less waves you create, the longer you get to keep your job.
But even if Pastor makes evangelism his key focus, it can lead to issues as well, where a group of Pastors think it is okay to abuse and insult and hurt the congregation because of their own agendas.
Another group of people, normally not associated or responsible to anyone, think it is okay to critique and criticise while doing nothing in community. Being a part of a community is hard work, being responsible and accountable to people is hard work, putting up with each other is hard hard work. My heart aches when we stand on the sidelines doing nothing, being accountable to no on, yet feeling it is our God given right to pour brown stuff all over those who are trying.
My version of success is this, a group of people who are cared for spiritually, whose families are cared for, whose children are seen as a priority. Yet this same group of people is also cared about too much to leave them in comfort. Instead they needed to be resourced, trained and kept accountable to be missionaries in their own context.
This is in my view the hardest ministry there is, and maybe why so many good younger leaders are saying, ‘barleise’, I want out of the traditional church community type of ministry.
The problem may just well be that many of my contemporaries have also opted out, and instead focused on what is easier to do as a pastor, either giving up on the church community altogether, or focused on being a chaplain as their foremost responsibility.
What I am struggling with at the moment in my own ministry is what is the key? Specifically what is the key to seeing Aussie men come to Christ. I am talking normal Australian men. You see we have seen a number of women come to know Christ in 2005. But what about their husbands? I have this vision or God given thought, that when one of them makes a decison, and I believe I know who he is, when he finally makes his decision, this will unlock the rest of them. I know this sounds disjointed, but it is what I feel God is saying to me.