Why do so many pastors, and ministries, finish poorly? Dallas Willard describes the sad process this way. (From The Great Omission, Kindle Location 1419. I'm mostly just quoting Willard - it's such good stuff.)
- Intense devotion to God by the individual or group brings substantial outward success.
- Outward success brings a sense of accomplishment.
- Outward success brings a sense of responsibility for what has been achieved - and for further achievement.
- For people looking on, the outward success is the whole thing.
- The sense of accomplishment and responsibility reorients vision away from God, and onto what we are doing and are to do. This happens usually to the applause and support of sympathetic people.
- The mission becomes the vision. It becomes what we are focused on.
- The mission and ministry is what we spend our thoughts, feelings, and strength upon.
- Goals occupy the place of the vision of God in our hearts. We find ourselves caught up in a visionless pursuit of various goals, to keep the thing going.
"This," writes Willard, "is the point at which service to Christ replaces love for Christ. The inward reality of love for God, and absorption in what He is doing, is no longer the center of the life, and may even become despised, or at least disregarded." (Ib.)
The effects of the initial fire of God are valued over the fire. "The fire of God in the human soul will always look foolish to those who like its effects but do not understand where those effects come from." (Ib.)
- At this point a pervasive consciousness of one's rights and perks may set in.
- The mission and its goals have replaced the original vision.
- The initial success of the movement has slowly replaced the treasure of Christ as the center of attention and devotion in their lives.
- The fall is complete.