Lecture 15: Assessing Ministry
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It’s important to have a theological basis for evaluating the effectiveness of your ministry.
II. Biblical Perspective
A. It's biblical to dream
B. It's biblical to seek God's blessing
C. Let God do the promoting
D. It's okay to have ambition
III. Measuring Success
A. It cannot be measured with the same precision as business
B. Your ministry cannot be measured merely by outward growth
C. Success is sometimes measured by loss
D. Success is measured by what God sees
E. Success can bring times of testing
F. How to measure success in ministry
Course: Theology of Ministry
Lecture: Assessing Ministry
A quick review to make sure that we are all kind of thinking together. The underlying assumption of this class is that effective ministry is rooted in theology. Making the point again that the two really have to go together. Being in the ETS meetings in Philadelphia last week, reminded me again how sometimes separated they are, papers that I can’t find any ministry with them.
And sometimes coming across ministry that doesn’t seem to have any theology in it. So saying that the two have to be together, we moved from there to talk about the fact that our ministry is a continuation of the ministry of the Godhead that in a theology of ministry, we are not here to invent something, just like we are not here to invent the mission of the Church. It’s already declared.
So ministry we are seen is something that originated not with us, but it originated with the Father. It’s when Jesus came to carry and fulfil and it’s what the Spirit empowers. So from the Trinity, so to speak, the Trinitarian centre, we get our focus for the ministry. We then said that ministry requires obviously a minister.
And again developing our theology, we have tried to make the point that it’s really critical to know our identity. When we say minister, what does that mean? We are not here to invent that, but to go back and ask the question, what does our theology tell us? And remember, I took you through several models. Looking at the model of Christ as part of our identity.
Pauline metaphors, because Paul uses a number of metaphors to describe the minister, and then took back to a model that I’ve more embraced and developed and that’s Old Testament offices. And then we said, let’s look at ministry in its very essence theologically. Discovered that at its very essence, ‘diakonia’, it is service.
And then we move from there, and use Pervis [phonetics] in his pastoral theology book to talk about the essence of ministry, is also participation. Participation in these four. It is participation in word, in grace, in presence, in reign [phonetics]. Hopefully, you got all these down pretty well by now. This is the essence of what we’ve been doing. We then talked about the fact that at its very heart, ministry is also missional.
Something that I think the emerging church in particular, is wanting to remind the Church that it is intentional. Ministry must be intentional, must be missional. And when we looked at this, we discovered again that ministry is a matter of perpetuation. It’s about continuing what’s already began. It’s a mission of redemption and edification. We then moved from there to talk about a theology of context.
Where do you do ministry? I started off by making the point that years ago, it was questioning whether the para-Chuch [phonetics] is legitimate. And today it seems like we’ve reversed. We often ask the question, is the traditional church legitimate? But I conclude by saying that in a theology of ministry, we do discover in scripture that ministry takes place in a localised community.
It then is called to go out and be incarnational and it is a community that has an environment that reflects some structure, where structure can go to seed is when the structure is more important than the ministry, or the form is more important than the function. That’s when ministry gets off track. And that’s where a lot of churches have got off track. When it comes to context, they don’t understand the theology of context, that things have gotten reversed.
Number eight, talked about the fact that ministry has certain requirements, that is, conversion, has to be, should be some sense of calling, whatever that means. And we tried to assess that a bit theologically. And certainly our theology tells us that character is a key part of what is required of a minister, as well as giftedness, and affirmation by the Body of Christ. We see that with Paul and Timothy.
And then certainly a place for preparation, and the place of seminary. And then we talked about the fact that ministry leads to resistance. This is just again, when we think about the theology of ministry, the nature of ministry, is that when we attempt to do something for God, there will be resistance because we live in a fallen world. Our theology informs us.
Why is that good to know? Because you will be facing resistance. And when you do, don’t be surprised. Don’t get your feelings hurt if somebody hates you. I think it was Ben [phonetics] Patterson once said, well you know, when you are in a foxhole and the bullets are flying, you don’t stand up and go hey, you hurt my feelings. No, you are in a war. Bullets come. Still hurts but that’s the nature. So ministry leads to resistance.
And a good book that I was just reading last week by a guy named Wright [phonetics], titled “A theology of the darkness”. It’s well worth reading with respect to this particular issue because a lot of us do not have a well crafted theology of darkness, of sin and this resistance. And the sooner we get a hold of that, the better we’ll be able to deal with resistance when we face it.
And then we said that ministry must be carried out with God’s authority. And that really is the flip side of number nine. And that is because there is resistance, we’re going to have to have a certain authority to deal with it. And the reality is our theology tells us, we what? We do have what? We do have authority. Right, God has given us authority.
Mark 3:15. That comes to today. We are going to talk about measurement of ministry, cause I think part of putting together a good theology of ministry is how do we measure this thing? And that’s a good question theologically because if we measured in wrong ways, that can really mess us up.
If we measure our ministry, let’s say, largely by numbers or the financial picture of our ministry, or the popularity of our ministry, not that those things are not indicators, but we got to go back and say, okay, what have we learned theologically? How do we measure ministry? That’s a question I want to raise here and have us think about. You’re all doing ministry, or you’ll be doing ministry.
And from time to time, you’re going to stop and ask yourself the question, is this working? Is this a success? Is this a failure? That doesn’t have necessarily easy answers to it. If I work for Frito-Lay and I’m a route salesman, at the end of the day, at the end of the month, I can point to some pretty clear indicators. Sales are up. I’m getting more shelf space.
Managers are liking me. The boss is happy. I got a raise. Those are good indicators. They are clear indicators. In ministry, they are not that clear, are they? Sometimes growth doesn’t necessarily mean a success. And sometimes diminishing numbers doesn’t necessarily equate to failure. So that’s what we want to talk about.
Last night as I was drifting off, I caught one of my favourite pastors on television, Joel Osteen, just to get some scriptural insight before I went to sleep. And there he was, not that I’ve seen him very much, maybe two or three times. And it just happened as I was in my kind of vegetative status I am generally on Sunday nights after preaching five times.
I came across him, and I thought, you know, now there is the absolute epitome of American success. Nicely dressed. Great hair, great teeth. Not that those things are bad. Some of us would like some of those things. But here was this, just this, huge, immense, how many thousands? How many thousands fit in there?
100,000? It’s huge. At certain point, who cares anymore, right I mean? But I thought, you know, someone could probably turn and then go, there is a successful pastor. Why can’t my pastor be like him? You know, I supposed. I don’t know if that happens, maybe.
But in terms of how America, a lot of Americans measure success, it has all of it, doesn’t it? Numbers, wealth, I mean, every now and then, they pan across the audience. And they seem, for the most part, to be a successful type anyway. Is that how we measure success? Is it okay to strive for success? Here are just some questions I raised by way of introduction. How do I measure ministry? Have I been successful?
Is it okay to strive for success? What is success? These are questions that come up. You go to your first ministerial conference. And you are feeling pretty good, well, sort of. You’re feeling pretty good when you got off the plane, until you get into the conference. Something inside begins to work on you, right?
You start finding yourself and you didn’t mean to, you didn’t intend to, and you didn’t prepared to, but you start measuring others, measuring yourself. I always remember, Fred [phonetics] Smith, who’s written a lot on leadership. I remember he said in one pastoral conference, and he was speaking. And I remember he got up and we were all sitting there. And he said well, I supposed you guys have probably enough time to sniff each other.
It was sort of his Texas crude way of saying what we all knew was true. Because you tend to do that. You’re in an elevator. And how many are in your church? How many baptisms? What’s your church budget? These things come up. And if you are really small, you just don’t want to talk about it. And if you are really large, you want to ask the question?
So here are some questions. I’ve got 4 questions I think I gave you and that is, first of all, is it biblical to pursue success? As we think about ministry and our theology, is ambition wrong? So I’ve just worked through some things I’ve listed here. First of all, I discovered this in scripture in a way, it’s biblical to dream. It’s okay to dream. It’s good to dream.
One of my favourite passages is Ecclesiastes 11. verses 1 - 6. You know where that passage, you’re familiar with that. Koheleth says, cast your bread on the waters. And it’s a great imagery that it’s a metaphor of, so to speak, of taking your ships and taking the risks and go out to see, and go for it.
And by the way, Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 is a great passage when you are preaching one of those vision sermons, you know. Get everybody excited. Dream great dreams, cause it is a great passage, until somebody gets mad at you for preaching Ecclesiastes or something like that. But it is important in ministry to dream. I think it is important to be future oriented always. And it is important to hope.
I mean, ministry ought to have a lot of hope attached to it. If your ministry doesn’t have a hope attached to it, then you probably need to move on somewhere. Because your people need you to resonate with hope. They need to see in you, whatever ministry you do, that even if everyone else feels a bit hopeless, they see in you hope. And that’s really important, and that’s really good.
But here is something that probably our theology tells us is that we need to hold on to our dreams a little bit loosely, not too tight. Cause God may turn things sideways because this is God’s ministry. And what we dream and what we conceive in our minds are verb [phonetics]. It’s all going. At best, we step out in faith, believing but God may have other plans.
That just is the case, right? March 3rd and 4th, I will stand in front of my congregation and ask our people to commit to 16 million dollars. But they might commit to 10,000 dollars. I don’t know. I hope and I dream, but, you know, God is going to be the one to determine that. I might be surprised. They might commit 30 million dollars.
It’s a rich church, right Paul? So who knows what will happen. So it’s okay. Is it okay to pursue? Well, it’s certainly biblical to dream. And secondly, it’s biblical to see God’s blessing. That’s a good thing in ministry to do.
For all the negatives about Jabez’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 4 verses 9 and 10, I come across a prayer like that, and I say to myself, if it’s good enough for Jabez, it’s good enough for me. You know, to say, Lord, and I love how the Hebrew language puts it, bless, to bless. The verb in the infinitive, next to each other.
Bless to bless which is I think in Hebraic form, a way of saying, pour it on, God. Bless indeed is how one translation puts it, but it really misses it. Jabez said, Lord, bless to bless, just bless abundantly. And I think therein is a statement in scripture that it is not out of place to say, God, I want your blessing.
It’s okay. I think sometimes we are afraid to pray for that. And I just say, why not? Why not ask God to bless? God, from everything I can tell in scriptures, is a God who loves to bless. In fact, I wonder sometimes if He does not bless as much as He does, because he waits for us to ask. So I think this is a good prayer. Not in a prayer that demands it. That’s where people get off base.
It’s not demanding, because we don’t demand anything from God. But it is okay to request it and realise God delights in it. It may shock some of the people in my church right now but, because we really believe that this is the direction we are going with our church right now, I have committed myself for a hundred days to pray this prayer. God, I want you to enrich and bless.
And I am just going each day in praying over every person and asking God to bless them in ways they never realise God will bless them. Now is that bad? Well, if I don’t add the other part of my prayer and that is, and God, at the same time in my prayer, You put the most sacrificial heart they never experienced in their lives for the kingdom of God. Does God do that kind of thing? Well yeah, I think sometimes He does.
I’ve shared this story with some that when I went to Dallas seminary to do my doctor work, and maybe I shared that here, did I? That my father couldn’t afford to help me with my education through my years at San Diego State or through my years at Westgen [phonetics]. So I had to pay my way through, like probably a number of you, which wasn’t easy, although I know you are going to hate to hear this. When I started at Westgen [phonetics] it was 14 dollars a credit unit.
But I was living on 250 dollars a month too, that include rent and everything else, so it all equals out, right? Where I am going with all of this is, the year I was doing my doctor work in Dallas, it meant being separated for a year with my wife. I went down there, did this work. My dad had just gone into business and it was really tough. And we just prayed about it and my dad said, look, let’s really trust God.
And that year, my dad had the most amazing year in his business that he ever had, for that one year. It just went off the charts. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he had a western store and the Olympic team that year all wore cowboy hats. It sort of started off a craze, but I give God the credit for all of that. So does God do things like that? I think he does. So it’s okay. Is it okay to pursue dreams? Yeah.
Is it okay to pursue God’s blessings? I think so, I think we should. It’s also biblical, thirdly, to let God do the promoting. God, I believe, does love to promote. As long as we let him do it, because it’s under His jurisdiction. And we see that in various places in scripture. All of a sudden, Joshua is going along and then there’s this clear statement in Joshua 3:7 where God declares, you know, that I demote and I promote. This is God’s domain.
So we realise that God elevates, God, is this a word, de-elevates? Does it work? So that’s God’s prerogative. We see that in 1 Samuel 2:7. Hannah, as she reflects back on what she has been through. She really was down in the valley and now she’s up on the mountain. And she reflects back and says that it’s God who lifts up some and puts down others.
Ezekiel 17:24 where God says through the prophet, I make high the low tree, and I make low the high tree. 1 Chronicles 29:12 where David says it’s in Your Hand to make great. So as we are assessing ministry, we, first of all, try to build a little bit of a theology of ambition, success.
How does that all stand with Scripture? We also discovered in 1 Peter 5 verse 6. Peter says that promotion comes in God’s way. And God’s way is to posture and position us in what position, if we are to have success. It’s humility. That’s how it works. Someone put it, it’s not stepping down, it’s standing next to God.
It’s realising our true stature. There again is coming to grips with our humility. So we discovered in scripture that God loves to make high at times, but He makes high those who are willing to, first of all, be made low. That’s pretty much how it works, right? That’s what scripture tends to tell us. So Hannah goes through the valley.
David goes through the wilderness. This is God’s way of working because He knows that that needs to happen or we won’t know how to handle success. We also discover that promotion comes in God’s time. Back to 1 Peter 5:6. Peter talks about God elevating at the proper time. God knows when is the right time.
Promotion comes for God’s purposes, not our purposes. Our theology needs to make sure it understands that. That if there is any success, there is any promotion, it’s not for our purposes, it’s for God’s purposes. He never brings us success to stroke our egos. He brings us success to further His kingdom.
Okay, so, a) is it biblical to pursue success? Is ambition wrong? There is an article years ago on leadership. I think it was title this, something like this, ‘Holy ambitious or wholly ambitious?’ There’s a difference between those two, a vast difference, huge difference.
Is there place for holy, h-o-l-y ambition? I think so. And I think God honours that. Now the second question then is, how does one then measure this blessing of success? What are the measuring sticks? Is it a church with so many number of people, or proficiency in one’s ability to speak?
Is it an advanced degree? Is it that you published a book? That seems to be a lot of measurement today, isn’t it? Now if you can just author a book, then you’ve made it. Is it the amount of money we earn from our practice, or from the number of clients? Does scripture give us any help? Well, here are few things I’ve listed. One is they can’t be measured with the same precision as business.
Let me just say this that it’s not to say numbers don’t have a place. Sometimes I think we can, and are always our tendency to react to one extreme, to go over to the other extreme. So we say numbers aren’t important to God. Numbers don’t matter. I don’t think I’ll go quite that far. Numbers always tells us some things. They are indicators.
It’s not that we don’t pay attention to them, cause sometimes we can use that kind of argument to justify that we are doing a lot of things wrong, or we are not giving our best efforts. But numbers miss things. They don’t measure a lot of things in ministry, and that’s the point. In business, numbers don’t measure everything either. That’s for sure.
But for in ministry, numbers miss a lot of things. In fact, Luke 16:15, Jesus warned of measuring as the world measures. And Jesus doesn’t just do it here, I believe, I think He does it in other places but He makes the point. Luke 16:15 is a warning that don’t take the way that the world measures things and measure ministry the same way.
If we don’t understand this, we will get messed up. You’ll end up measuring in wrong ways that will confuse and frustrate, not only you but the people you’ve lead to measure that way. Stores can count customers. Factories can count orders. Farmers can measure crops. But it’s not so easy to measure followers.
Now in this, secondly, it cannot be measured merely by outward growth. How do we know that’s true? Anything in scripture indicate that, Heather? Be at the same place they were a year ago? Five years ago?
What else in scripture informs us that you can’t measure merely by outward growth. Let me put it in another way. If you measure simply by outward growth, what kind of question mark would that put on what people in scripture, for example?
Audience 1: Jesus.
Jesus. Jeremiah would be another failure, wouldn’t he? Who was that? Isaiah, was it Isaiah 6 where he said you will speak and no one will respond. I often thought, you know, what if God met me in a vision like Isaiah’s and said, now John, I’m glad you are willing to say send me and so I am going to send you.
I am going to take you by what you’ve said and just want you to know, you’re going to preach and nobody will respond. Still want to go? He was given a ministry of unresponsiveness, Isaiah 6:9-11. And he was successful. That’s the point, he was successful. Jeremiah was a successful prophet. One of the great prophets and nobody listened to him.
Israel still went to Babylon, and those that stayed behind went to Egypt. Think I left a quote there by Oden [phonetics], effectiveness in a church is not measured by the size of the congregation but by the depth of genuine hearing of the word of God. Just a lot of other indicators. Sometimes, number three, success is measured by loss. Sometimes success is measured by loss.
Now again, I think Rick Warren has a fair point, when he in his book he wrote several years ago, ‘Purpose Driven Church’, he said that’s healthy, it tends to grow. And he is right. If you have healthy plants, they grow. If you have unhealthy plants, they don’t grow. As he puts it in his book, the important thing is not to figure out how to make things grow.
The important thing is to figure out what’s keeping things from growing, if things are not growing. Because he says, by their nature, the church is a body. It is organic. It’s supposed to grow, is the point. In our ministries, they are supposed to grow. They are formed of organic units. So if they are not growing to a certain extent, you stop and you should ask the question, what’s keeping this from growing. Makes sense, right?
I had never thought of that right till I read his books some years ago, cause we are all focused on, we got to find things to make this thing grow. Well he say, no, it will grow. Ministry will grow by its very nature. So if it’s not growing, what are the things that are killing growth? What are the diseases like you know, if you got a tree, or if you got a plant somewhere in the garden, and there’s just there it is. Three years later and it’s still the same size. You ask yourself.
I have a plant in my office I’ve had since I came five years ago. It’s still the same size. Still looks almost exactly the same. But of course it’s by design. I don’t feed it. I water it sparingly. I give it just enough so that it will stay right where it is. I don’t want it to get any bigger. I know there’s probably something wrong with that form of thinking. But it’s not a matter of, I got to figure out how to make this thing grow.
It’s a matter of, if somebody really want to see it grow, figure out what are the things that are keeping it from growing. Like never feeding it.
We live in a culture that is so permeated with growth and with that kind of culture, we almost need to air them on the side. Not of what can we do to make this thing grow. I mean, that’s not the question. What can we do to find out what’s keeping it from growing?
Why I’ve said just what I’ve said is to counterbalance our tendency over here to go too far over here and say, you know, numbers don’t mean anything, and say, what a minute, there is something to that. Even Jesus you’ve seen, what you just refer to the kingdom, said it will grow. In fact, He suggests it will grow unbelievably so. Though how we might measure may not be the same way.
So making the point I’ve just made, for example, with [inaudible 30:12] want to, kind of, go from the other side. That while numerical increases can serve to validate some success, and to validate health and growth, yet sometimes, and that’s the point here under three, success is sometimes measured by loss, sometimes loss on the other hand is also a measure of success.
And I think a classic casing [phonetics] point is back to Jesus. And in particular, what I think of is John 6. If success is measured by numbers, then John 6 would be, at least at the beginning point, the affirmation of Jesus’ ministry, right? He feeds the five thousand, and they all want to follow him, and they all what? They want to make him. They want to make him king.
And so here they are and you know, they’re seeing this, you know, meal ticket and they’re all ready to follow him until he turns around and says, what does he say? He says, I know what this is about. You’re looking for bread. I’m the bread, okay. You want to partake of me? And of course they began to scratch their heads and go, I just wanted a happy meal. What’s this got to do with anything?
Of course they had everything to do with it. Because he was saying that you know, following me means you are going to partake of me. That means that you’re going to have to go deep with me. That means you’re going to have to go to the cross. I think they didn’t quite understand that. But they understood enough to say, I don’t think I want to follow anymore. And John 6 is one of those, from the evangelistic side, is one of the great failures, you could almost say.
Cause by the time you get to the end of John chapter 6, everybody’s gone but the disciples. What does that tell us? It just tells us that numbers can indicate health and they can indicate some pretty good things happening. But just to go by numbers alone is really dangerous because numbers didn’t always mean things in scripture, or in Jesus’s ministry.
A point that was made a moment ago, I think by Heather is that, we can have a lot of consumers and no disciples. And I think that’s one of the most dangerous things today in our culture. And hence we miss the purpose of ministry. The nature of ministry is not to acquire consumers. It’s to produce disciples. That’s what our theology tells us. That’s what success is.
That was Christ’s goal. Matthew 28:19-20, people transformed into radical Christ likeness. That’s the measure of success in a powerful sense. I’m not sure we’re measuring success in ministry that way today. And I think, well I have problems with Barnes’ [phonetics] newest book. I think part of what Barne [phonetics] is after is to say we’ve been measuring the wrong thing.
And he found himself even maybe measuring some of the wrong things, and became some what frustrated with it. So number four, success is measured by what God sees. And what God sees is far more than external. It’s what He sees internally. You know, couple passages here.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 where Paul says my message was what? My message was marked by something simple, not necessarily profound. My message was marked not by what the world measures messages, but it was marked by the Spirit of God and His power. And therein in effect, Paul says, here’s, you want to measure success? That’s success.
Or another passage that’s maybe appropriate here is 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. If I do all of these things, but I don’t have what? If I don’t have, you know, something of the internal, then it’s all worthless. It doesn’t really matter.
Leaves the third question, what must one be alert for, if there is blessing, if we do see success in our ministries? And hopefully we will all see success. If we begin to realise what success is and we experience success, what should be careful of for? And here are couple of things. Number one, praise is one of life’s greatest test.
The point I want to make here is that tough times can do us well. And good times can do us sin. And we see this in scripture, Hezekiah I think is one good illustration. A man who depended upon God, 2 Chronicles 32. And he took courage. He faced challenges. And he did all of these great things but when God blessed him, he choked, verses 22 to 24.
Here’s another passage, one I’ve thought a lot about, Proverbs 27:21. Let me read you that verse. The crucible is for silver, the furnace is for gold and a man is tested by his praise. Ever thought about that proverb?
The crucible is for silver, the furnace is for gold and a man is tested by his praise. What’s his point? What is he saying?
Audience 2: I think praise reveals a lot of the character of a person.
Yeah, just like a furnace reveals what’s in a metal, so praise reveals what’s in a person. It will expose our innermost being.
An old saint by the name Ironside, Henry Ironside, put it this, or Harry Ironside, put it this way, there is no hotter crucible to test a man than when he is put through a fire of praise and popularity. It is his most searing furnace. Cause the question is will we give God the credit?
There’s no hotter crucible to test a man than when he is put through a fire of praise and popularity. It is the most searing furnace. We try to measure this thing about ministry. We try to think through success. And what we need to think through here is the dangers of success.
Success is one of life’s great dangers. There was this guy some years ago. His name is Steven Berglas, B-e-r-g-l-a-s, Steven Berglas. He’s a Harvard psychologist. His work was around people who suffer from success. People who made it to the top, who had enormous accomplishments.
And this is what he observed. He observed that for many who made it to the top, whose work is a success, he describes that this is generally what happens. And you are familiar with this word. He says they, for all to many, they, they implode. In their enlargement, they blow up from the inside.
They burst apart within and everything crashes. They are like submarines that get too deep. In his work, he discovered four common results of success. Here they are, arrogance. First result of success for all to many, is arrogance. Number 2, aloneness.
Number 3, boredness, boredness, a need for adventure. And for all to many, number 4, adultery. So we hope for success. We try to keep in mind what success is measured by and what it should not be measured by. But we hope our ministries will be a success, but it’s really important in our theology of ministry, that we always keep in front of us, the dangers that come with success. That we haven’t arrived in a certain sense is when we need to be most aware and most alert.
Last question is, so what is success then? How do we measure success? What is success in ministry? There’s couple passages that stand out here. One is 1 Corinthians 4 verses 1 and 2, where Paul says these words. 1 Corinthians 4, this is how one should regard us, measure us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.
Moreover, it’s required of stewards that one be found trustworthy or faithful. I see in that passage a great statement by Paul. If you’re going to measure my ministry, measure it by this, that I was a steward and I was a servant. And in that responsibility, I was faithful.
The other passage that I think is really helpful in measuring success, measuring ministry is Acts chapter 20, where Paul calls the elders of Ephesus together, you remember? And he basically reflects on his ministry. And I think Paul is, in a sense, putting the measurement of ministry together. And here are the things that I wrote down from that passage. Let me invite you to think with me about this for a moment.
Turn in your Bibles to Acts 20. Let’s just read this slow for a moment. And I want you just to mention, okay, here’s how Paul’s measuring ministry.
Verse 18: when they came to him, he said you know how I lived among you the whole time, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility, with tears, with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews.
How I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public, and from house to house. So Paul is reflecting back on his ministry. What’s the success of his ministry here? What is he measuring? His faithfulness to declare in anything that God intended for him to declare.
His humility. So did I served with humility? Did I declare anything? Verse 21: testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there. What else do we see? Paul is rehearsing his life.
Here’s my ministry, guys. I tried to reflect a humble spirit. I was faithful to present what God called me to present. What else? I was faithful the Spirit’s leading, yeah. That’s what stands out here. Except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. What else stands out? It’s his measuring his ministry. Yeah, did I get to the finish line? This is really a great statement by Paul.
And I really think he gives us how you assess your ministry. Did I serve with humility? Did I declare everything God called me to declare? When we think about that statement, did I declare everything God called me to declare? Did I avoid saying what God told me to say? Did follow the Spirit’s leading? Did I complete? Did I get to the finish line?
Paul says I have gotten to the end. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you. What is he saying there? Well, maybe the next verse helps us here.
For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Because I think their blood would be on Paul’s hands, if he did not.
Justin: Do you relate that to how Ezekiel [inaudible]
In what sense?
Justin: Just that giving an account for their souls.
Oh yeah. I think so, Justin. I think that’s kind of what Paul’s saying. Which I think again goes back to Old Testament prophets. That so to speak, the blood of the people would be on their hands, if they are not faithful to say what God called them to say. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. What is Paul keep going back to? You want to measure my ministry, measure this, I did what? I never stopped. And I never stopped what?
Audience 4: It sounds like he had compassion of heart here.
Yeah, and he cared enough for their souls to tell them what their should needed to hear, whether the liked to hear it or not. That’s what stands out. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel.
If you want to measure me, measure what? Measure this that I did this ministry with the right motives. I didn’t do this for financial gain. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
Which in effect is another way of saying, if you want to measure my ministry, measure this that my ministry was marked more by what I gave than what I got. It’s good stuff, ah? It’s good stuff. How do you measure ministry? Paul would say, measure by my faithfulness. And I think to these elders, he says, okay guys, look back over the last three years, what did you see? How do you assess me?
And I think in this, he gives us a grid through how to measure success, how to measure ministry. Let me give you a few more things and then I’ll stop here. There’s a guy named David Fitch. You heard of this guy, Fitch, F-i-t-c-h? Just written a pretty interesting book entitled, ‘The Great Giveaway’. Might be a book worth noting. He’s pretty strong indictment of a lot of ministry today in America.
That’s why he titles it, ‘The Great Giveaway’. He starts off by talking about how you measure your success. How the church should be measuring success. And he basically makes the point that we tend to measure by numbers, money, lots of things. But he said this is how we should measure it. And here are some statements he made, I thought these were good statements. In whatever ministry you do, I think these apply.
Is this a community where I can confess sin and feel safe? Don’t tell me how big your church is. Let me ask you this. Can I find community in where I can be me and I can share failure and I’ll still be embraced?
Is this a place where prayer is taken with a high degree of seriousness? Is this a place where prayer is taken with a high degree of seriousness? Is this a place where someone will care for me if I am sick? Do people notice that? Here is the fourth thing. Is this a place where an outsider is welcomed, even embraced?
Is this a place where marriages are being saved? That’s a good question, hah? Is this a place where marriages are being saved? Think about that. In the ministry you’re in, how many stories are you, or coming out of that, or someone’s marriage was about to fall apart, but came back together because of this ministry. Are people financially helping others? Is this a place where that happens?
That when someone is really hurting, someone steps up and says I can help that brother, I can help that sister. Are people financially helping others? Here’s a real good one today. Are people welcoming others into their homes? We’ve become so private today. Are people welcoming others into their homes?
Are people more about making their homes a place of hospitality or a museum? Are people being restored? Is this a place where people are being restored from addictions? Be it pornography, alcoholism. Is this a place where people are recovering, being restored from addictions? Here’s the last one. If we are talking about measuring success, here’s a good one.
Is this a place that is statistically different than the culture? When it comes to divorce, abuse, gambling addictions. Is this a place that is statistically different in a huge way than the culture at large?
Maybe it is initially so because maybe a lot of the people that make up your ministry, or on church people. People who are just discovering Christ, and knows statistics aren’t too different. But the question is, is it moving to that direction? So good questions, hah? So how do we measure success? Well, those are some ways to measure success.
I think Barne [phonetics], maybe going back to Barne [phonetics] would say, in your ministry, here is how you measure success, in terms of, what are your core competencies are? What a person should eventually become in Christ? Are they getting there? And are you measuring that? I just can’t get that out of my brain. I think that’s a great question. Churches measure tons of things but very few, and that’s his point.
Hardly any measure that question. Have we, first of all, determined these core competencies? What we want to see people competent in, as radical followers of Jesus. And are we measuring that? So we can say, you know, here are the amount of people, or here is the percentage that seems to be really getting there. Okay. Take a 10 minute break.
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