Saturday, January 12, 2019

Pastors - The Greatest Need Your People Have from You

Kites, over Munson Park in Monroe, Michigan

You can get Tim Keller's ebooklet "Ministry and Character" for free. If you are a leader for Christ you should read this. It's upside-down Kingdom of God stuff. Countercultural. So true.

Tim writes about "success."

 "The modern notion of ministerial success is not so much about simple church growth as it is about the minister’s ability to attract large numbers of people by his personal appeal, and then to create powerful religious experiences for them... Individuals have been taught to be consumers, not only of retailers and merchants, but also of institutions and organizations. They will go to a church only if (and as long as) its worship and public speaking is riveting and attractive."

Not good. 

How sad when a pastor works on his personal appeal; how wacked-out when "Christians" mutate into spectator-consumers.

A better test of ministerial credibility is "fruitfulness." "The biblical paradigm of fruitfulness is probably our best criterion for ministerial evaluation."  

Keller says the enemy of fruifulness is pride. Pride:
1.   Makes us more concerned with popularity and applause than with fruitfulness.
2.   Makes us defensive when criticized.
3.   Is a type of tribal arrogance that elevates our own church models and denominational traditions above others and makes us scornful of those with different theological opinions.
Keller thinks that many pastors preach the Gospel while not themselves believing the Gospel. My way of verifying this is my observation of the practical prayerlessness in 80% of North American pastors who, like their surrounding culture, "just can't find the time to pray." (This is from my teaching prayer and spiritual formation to four thousand pastors and Christian leaders, over the past four decades.)

Keller writes:

"As ministers, we must be willing to admit that ministerial success often becomes the real basis for our joy and significance, much more so than the love and acceptance we have in Jesus Christ. Ministry success often becomes what we look to in order to measure our worth to others and our confidence before God. In other words, we look to ministry success to be for us what only Christ can be. All ministers who know themselves will be fighting this all their lives."

The inner life takes priority over the outer life. "Most ministry failure stems from a neglect of the inner life and communion with God." 

Finally, character always comes before giftedness. A few years ago some graduate students in film interviewed me for a documentary they were making on Southeast Michigan. Two of the questions they asked me were:

1. As you look at your community, what is the #1 problem you see?
2. What is the #1 thing you need to do, as a pastor, for your people?

I answered:
1. "Me."
2. "Abide in Christ."

Keller writes: "Scottish minister Robert Murray McCheyne was reputed to have told other leaders, "The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.""

Whatever "success" we have in ministry always begins here.

My two books are: