- Jim Townsley
- Oct 19, 2009
The title of this article, Realistic Expectations, suggests that it is possible to have unrealistic expectations. This is especially true in today's pressure packed society. In my opinion, unrealistic expectations are one of the leading causes of failure in the ministry and in the home. Whether or not one's expectations are self-induced or from external sources they still play a major role in the spiritual well-being of a new church and in a young preacher.
Today's demands for success have caused many to make foolish decisions and very often fatal decisions in the ministry. I can recount numerous preachers who left their church or the ministry who were actually doing a good job. They simply didn't think their church attendance was high enough, they weren't seeing enough salvation decisions, or they didn't have a nice enough building etc. Perhaps we older preachers have not been the encourager to young men that we should be. Perhaps too many young men have a false understanding of the ministry. Whatever the cause, the problem is real. While pondering the topic of success I compiled my own definition, "The measure of a man's success is determined by the extent of God's control in his life." Perhaps our self-induced expectations are from selfish pride which leads us to trust in the flesh rather than in the living God.
Today's church planter should be, as much as possible, following the New Testament Jerusalem model. However, you will notice the early church did not have quotas for church growth. In addition, the Jerusalem church did not have a competitive spirit. These early believer's were filled with the Holy Spirit and their primary goals were to preach the gospel and honor the Lord. No man was seeking personal recognition. Even though there were no attendance goals the early church grew rapidly. Some estimates suggest within a year the Jerusalem church had 50,000 believers. This phenomenal growth is often lifted up as the standard for all to attain.
The part of history we tend to neglect is that the Jerusalem church soon scattered and few remained in Jerusalem . When is the last time you attended a conference on how to lead a church from 50,000 to 50? Probably few would attend such a conference even if it existed. Yet the truth remains, that the church in Jerusalem was disobedient to the Lord's command to go into the entire world. This is the reason the Lord sent persecution to disperse the believers into the regions beyond. The dispersed church seems less successful to the casual observer, but in fact the dispersed church was an obedient church that carried the gospel to the known world.
Improper expectations have caused some to bring shame to the ministry and sadly some to err from the faith. There are consequences to our actions and if our actions are not pleasing to God the cost will be significant. The following list of consequences is not exhaustive or final, but it is worth serious reflection.
• Setting unrealistic goals
I am in favor of setting goals. As has been said, "Aim at nothing and you are bound to hit it." But, some of the worst days in the history of our church came from trying to reach goals to impress others. On our first anniversary we had a goal of reaching 300 in attendance. We had 299 and an usher went out onto the street and paid two young men $5.00 each to come into the service. I can honestly reflect on that special day and I must admit it was one of the worst days in the history of our church. It was a good thing to have 300 in attendance, but the way we accomplished it did more long term harm than good for our church. I found myself pushing and pulling my members rather than leading them.
• Comparing your ministry to another
No two situations are the same. The ministry is difficult wherever it may be, but results can vary significantly. The results in Ireland or Italy will be different than the results in the Philippines or one of the African countries. The results in New England or New York City will be different from those in North Carolina or Indiana . There are so many variables in comparing churches that it is impossible to consider all the factors. The most important factor is to give our best to the Lord and that is exactly what He expects from us.
• Missing the will of God
Serving in the place and position of God's calling is extremely important. Does God want you to be the pastor or is it His will for you to be a helper in the ministry? Serving in the capacity and office of God's calling is crucial to our success in service. We must be ourselves and not imitate another preacher. He called us and we must follow Him.
• Failure to care for those to whom we are responsible
Winning the world is a lofty goal. But we are not asked to win the world, rather we are commanded to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Only God can save (win) a soul. Really, the command to go into all the world is the collective goal of the church and not the responsibility of one person. While trying to reach the world we can easily forget our responsibilities to our children, our wife, and our congregation. Members deserve a preacher who pays for them an d teaches them how to live the Christian life. Children deserve a dad who loves them, spends time with them, and models the Christian life before all who know him.
If we follow the Lord and become content to do His will rather than our own, our ministries will greatly profit. What results would we experience if we spent more time in prayer, more time with our family, and more time feeding the flock of God? The pressure of the ministry can be heavy upon us, but if we are faithful to do God's work God's way the pressure is upon Him not us.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.-- Mat 11:29-30
The pressure of the ministry has led many good men into heresy, immorality, compromise, and failure. Men we must keep our eyes on the Lord and follow His will. It is imperative that we follow the proper model of success.
"The measure of a man's success is determined by the extent of God's control in his life."