Thursday, October 09, 2008

...Tozer speaks from the grave to the easily self-impressed emerging culture of our day

One of the marks of maturity in ministry is the ability to discern and evaluate its fruitfulness and impact biblically, not culturally nor pragmatically IOW: numbers are never a good or accurate barometer to measure successful ministry. Every time I hear another young buck pastor real off each week how many people "they have added" to the church recently; how many sermons have been downloaded "of theirs" that month; and/or how many people are attending "their" church services this year - blah, blah, blah - it reveals a heart that is self-promoting, self-impressed, self-seeking, and one that lacks real humility.

If numbers were "the visible sign" that God was moving, then Jeremiah was a failure; John the Baptist a failure; the Apostle Paul was a failure; men like Edwards/Watson/Calvin/Gill/Luther, etc. were utter failures. And even Jesus Himself would have to be considered a failure. Beloved, we do not measure a church's effectiveness by the size of the yearly offerings or how many are attending. We certainly don't measure a pastor's effectiveness by book sales and MP3 downloads, etc. That's all shallow and petty; carnal and fleshly. God's ways are not our ways; and His thoughts are not our thoughts. That is why one pastor who is impressed with his numbers and touts them as his bio for recognition thinking that makes him and his ministry relevant and respectable, but at the same time puts down other pastors who having small churches in size, that are not techno savvy, and arrogantly draws the false conclusion that "they are faithful but ignored and ineffectual" - that man is a cretin and has developed spiritual cataracts.

May I encourage you to drink in slowly the two passages of Scripture below and ponder how the Apostle Paul dealt with the sectarian promotion of self and what should truly define a genuine minister of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and of God. 

Then... please also read Tozer's punctuating quote below.  Not preferring circumlocution, but in an economy of words A.W. speaks pointedly from the grave to some of the pragmatic moorings of our day.

Biblical Ministry Matters... If you have a pastor that is more concerned about being faithful rather than successful, then thank the Lord for that man. May his tribe increase.

Burn your plastic popularity and pragmatic models... 

1 Corinthians 4:1-2
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.
1 Corinthians 3:1-7
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.


We have but to become acquainted with, or even listen to, the big names of our times to discover how wretchedly inferior most of them are. Many appear to have arrived at their present eminence by pull, brass, nerve, gall and lucky accident…

[T]he church also suffers from this evil notion. Christians have fallen into the habit of accepting the noisiest and most notorious among them as the best and the greatest. They too have learned to equate popularity with excellence, and in open defiance of the Sermon on the Mount they have given their approval not to the meek but to the self-assertive; not to the mourner but to the self-assured; not to the pure in heart who see God but to the publicity hunter who seeks headlines.

HT: Ken Silva


Nathan W. Bingham said...


This post is spot on. If it is all about numbers, then Joel Osteen or Benny Hinn are up there, but if we take the measuring rod and make it those who are being diligent and who are accurately handling the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15) then the scale flips on its head.

I pray for those men of God who are pastoring small churches, and who may be feeling the pressure to be like the other more 'successful' churches, that they would remain faithful, continuing to trust in our sovereign God and His sufficient Scriptures.

Ken Silva said...

Hey Nathan.

A dead on target piece. Pragmatic American evangelicalism's "bigger is better" business approach has hurt a lot of people.

Thank you for the tip Steve. 8^)

The Blainemonster said...

Anybody can draw a crowd; God help us to "draw" or "cut" a straight line ( and correctly handle His Word. The onus is on all of us who are called to pastor/teach/preach to resist our own desire for glory and remember that we, too, are just followers of the Christ and unworthy servants doing our duty, AND that we will be judged more stringently b/c of the nature of the calling in which we've been placed.

Anonymous said...

Good post. That's a good lesson to keep in mind in many areas such as blogging and witnessing.

Chad Zaucha said...

Nor would it be accurate to assume that because God has blessed a ministry with numbers that it is not being faithful to the Word of God.

Nor would it be accurate to assume that just because a ministry has small numbers that it is being faithful.

Carla Rolfe said...

I recently heard a pastor go on about how pastors of small churches are ineffective and that no one's really listening to them. (insert eye-rolling face here)

As arrogant as that statement sounds on the surface, I think the real question here might be clarified by the definition of the word "effective". If those pastors of large churches with lots of numbers are in fact equating effectiveness with numbers, then the question begs "who are you aiming to please, man - or God?" I think the answer is obvious.

I come from a small church, pastored by a man who loves the Lord and faithfully preaches His word every Sunday. Is he boring and inneffective because our church is small? Quite the contrary, he's most effective in equipping the saints and faithfully proclaiming and rightly dividing God's word. His aim is to please God, not men.

To me, that's key. If your church grows while you're doing that, then praise God. If it doesn't, then praise God. If your focus remains faithfully preaching God's word, then you're right on track, no matter what anyone says about numbers.

My 2 cents, fwiw.

SJ Camp said...

Nor would it be accurate to assume that because God has blessed a ministry with numbers that it is not being faithful to the Word of God.

Nor would it be accurate to assume that just because a ministry has small numbers that it is being faithful.

Point taken - absolutely. BUT, the scenario I described in my post was a real one and not made up; and thus, the concern voiced.

But I thank you sir for the balance...


gigantor1231 said...

S.J. and Y'all

As evidenced by God's dealings with David in 1 Chronicles 21 I do not believe that He is impressed at all with numbers, as a matter of fact our focus on numbers for other than logistic purposes is offending to Him, perhaps even idolatrous. God looks to those that worship Him in spirit and truth and population is not important!

Anonymous said...


You wrote, "...and/or how many people are attending "their" church services this year - blah, blah, blah - it reveals a heart that is self-promoting, self-impressed, self-seeking, and one that lacks real humility."

I'm a huge MacArthur fan. But, in light of your comment above, how would you view these comments in MacArthur's bio?

"Under John's leadership, Grace Community Church's two morning worship services fill the 3,000-seat auditorium to capacity. Several thousand members also participate each week in dozens of fellowship groups and training programs, led by members of the pastoral staff and lay leaders."


"Grace to You airs more than 1,500 times daily throughout the English speaking world reaching all major population centers in the United States, as well as Australia, Canada, Europe, India, New Zealand, the Philippines, and South Africa, It also airs more than 450 times daily in Spanish reaching 23 countries, including Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, and Colombia. In its three-decade history, Grace to You has also distributed more than 12 million audiocassette tapes and more than one hundred study guide titles."


"Since completing his first best-selling book The Gospel According to Jesus, in 1988, John has written over 150 books and, through Grace to You and retail bookstores, distributed millions of copies worldwide.Many of John's books are available on CD-ROM and over 80 titles have been translated into Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Marathi, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and several other major languages."

Just curious as to your take (and others).

The link is:

Kevin said...


Here's my two cents:

Some of that kind of bio data is just part of being an author. In other words, most of us like specific information when we visit a website or read the back of a book to know who wrote it.

Could they have written it a little differently? Maybe, but I'm not sure exactly how.

There's a balance between informing others of what happens in a ministry while making sure we're not robbing God of His glory.

Has MacArthur missed it here? I really don't know, but I simply don't know how else we could describe his ministry.

Not sure if I'm making any sense or just rambling. If I'm rambling, it wouldn't be the first time.