Eugene Peterson in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction writes, “It is not difficult in our world to get a person interested in the message of the Gospel; it is terrifically difficult to sustain the interest. Millions of people in our culture make decisions for Christ, but there is a dreadful attrition rate. Many claim to have been born again, but the evidence for mature Christian discipleship is slim. In our kind of culture anything, even news about God, can be sold if it is packaged freshly; but when it loses its novelty, it goes on the garbage heap. There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier Christians called holiness.”
‘Whenever success is made the motive of service, infidelity to our Lord is the inevitable result…The only way to keep true to God is by a steady persistent refusal to be interested in Christian work and to be interested alone in Jesus Christ.’ Oswald Chambers
This is a very perceptive and sharp observation by Chambers. Such a difficult tension to maintain in ministry…Often our hearts desire ‘success’ (usually associated with more people, more monies, more churches, more small groups) and often the people we serve as well as the leaders above us demand it from us.
It makes me wonder what God’s definition of success is and what His evaluating standards will be in eternity.
Often our pursuit of success might bring us into danger:
○ Becoming workaholics that neglect their own souls
○ Becoming liars that inflate statistics
○ Becoming people-pleasers that ignore His pleasure
○ Becoming obsessed with our image rather than our character
I guess while growth is a healthy outcome of the Spirit’s work in a community (I long for an Acts 2:42f experience with us) we must guard our hearts as His servants and fix our eyes on Him, live to please Him alone and pursue His approval (well done good and faithful servant) above everything else.
In an interview with Chuck Colson, he concluded with some counsel to pastors and their lay leaders: “Worry more about spiritual depth than church growth. There’s too much recruitment going on just to get people in the Church. I think pastors most often suffer because they’re under pressure from their own leadership, their deacons and elders. The people want the biggest church in town more than the pastor. So, I simply would say: Focus on making disciples, transforming them.
“I think there’s a real sense of unease in the Church today that we’ve got lots of numbers, but we don’t have people who really are change agents, who are really witnesses of transformed lives. One thing we’ve done at Prison Fellowship is recast our vision, mission and values statements to reflect not just reaching as many people in the prison with the Gospel as we can, but to really make disciples–to see them become transformed.”
Very insightful comment that reinforces my great passion to see the Church grasp the great need for disciple-making and not just ‘decisions’…