What does a successful ministry look like
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What Does A Successful Ministry Look Like?. Yesterday, I began by asking the question: What Does A Successful Ministry Look Like?

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What Does A Successful Ministry Look Like?

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What does a successful ministry look like

What Does A Successful Ministry Look Like?

  • Yesterday, I began by asking the question: What Does A Successful Ministry Look Like?

  • DAVE LEVESQUE: Churches, like governments, can often end up valuing things they’ve worked out how to measure, rather than working out how to measure things they value

  • If we aren’t careful, we can have a worldly definition of success in ministry – ABC (attendance, buildings, cash) – which is not necessarily a spiritual definition at all

  • So yesterday, we looked together at one of four places in the New Testament where Paul reflects on the success of his ministry. “From Jerusalem round to Illyricum, I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel”

  • And we considered the way Paul’s view of ministry success was bound up with missional progress, particularly in preaching the gospel in unreached regions, and establishing churches there

  • Today, I want us to consider that text (Romans 15) alongside three others: 1 Thessalonians 3, Acts 20 and 2 Timothy 4. All four texts show Paul reflecting back on his ministry, and demonstrate how he defined success

    • 1 Thess 3:6-8: “But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you—for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.”

    • Acts 20:26-27: “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 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.”

    • 2 Timothy 4:6-7: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

    • Romans 15:19: “From Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ.”


  • Gospel progress gospel perseverance and gospel preservation

    Gospel progress, gospel perseverance, and gospel preservation

    • I think those four texts, which I see as the four clearest places where Paul reflects back on his ministry, demonstrate that Paul saw success in ministry in terms of three things

      • We saw yesterday that Romans 15 explains success in ministry in terms of the progress of the gospel towards the ends of the earth. This is a missional perspective

      • The Thessalonians passage talks about ministry in a specific city, and explains success as the continued perseverance in faith of his converts. This is an essentially pastoral perspective

      • The Acts passage, addressed to the Ephesian elders, explains success in terms of the proclamation of the whole counsel of God

      • Similarly, 2 Timothy 4 sees it as “fighting the good fight, completing the race, keeping the faith”

        • Despite Bon Jovi, or Journey, this phrase doesn’t just mean that Paul hasn’t stopped believing (although it does mean that)

        • “The faith” in the Pastorals generally means “the truths of the gospel”. So “I have kept the faith” means “I have preserved, and guarded, the faith that was delivered to me”

      • So both his address to the Ephesian elders and his last words to Timothy represent ministry success as preserving and proclaiming the whole of God’s word. This is an essentially theological perspective

    • If we bring these three perspectives together – the missional, pastoral and theological components of Christian leadership – then I think we have a rounded, integrated view of how Paul saw success in ministry

      • Success, as a Christian leader, is seeing the gospel reach new regions, seeing the people under your care stand firm as believers, and seeing the whole truth of God guarded for the next generation

      • Or, more simply: gospel progress, gospel perseverance, and gospel preservation


    Holding the three together

    Holding the three together

    • The chances are, everyone in this room will find one of those three ways of appraising success appeals to you more than the others. DISCUSS. My order of preference goes theological, missional, pastoral

    • It’s as well to recognise that. But we need to maintain a careful balance between two extremes on this issue

      • For most of the history of the Christian church, one leader in each church has been responsible for all of these things: the priest / vicar / pastor. This is common in small churches, and has too low a view of team

      • But recently a lot of larger, and often American, churches have overreacted, and divided the leadership roles into separate specialisms: “I’m the preacher, but I don’t get involved in pastoral stuff”, or whatever

      • We need to honour team, and the diversity of gifts – but without ditching the way Scripture holds these three leadership responsibilities together

      • In practice, because the team (and then the church) will become like its leader – so if the leader isn’t seen to value mission, pastoral care or theology, the church probably won’t either (MESSAGE = MEANS)

      • In principle, because ministry success, for Paul, involved all three

    • Here’s some ways of earthing that in practice. TABLE


    Fruit and goals

    Fruit and Goals

    • So now, back to the quote we started with: churches end up valuing things they’ve worked out how to measure, rather than working out how to measure the things they value

    • By default, the way we appraise success as leaders will be shaped by things we can count easily

      • So, for example, the temptation will be for us to appraise missionary success by the number of times people profess Jesus, rather than by the number of times people proclaim Jesus

      • Pastorally, we will be inclined to measure how many people are gathering midweek, rather than how much people are growing midweek

      • Theologically, we may assume that if our public preaching and teaching is widely listened to, it must also be broadly correct. If people like it, then God likes it. Right? Hmmm. JOEL OSTEEN

    • So there are two things, I think, that we as leaders need to do here. Firstly, we need to distinguish between FRUIT AND GOALS. My friend Simon Elliott taught me this

      • Fruit, he said, is all about the things that God does: saving people, stirring them to give, working signs and wonders, causing people and churches to grow in numbers and maturity, etc

      • Goals, on the other hand, are the things we do: invite people round for dinner, tell people the gospel, teach the church about giving, communicate vision and values, invite people to Alpha, etc

      • Fruit, he explained, we need to pray for. We should pray for more salvation, more generosity, more people, gifts and maturity. We don’t set goals for those things – they’re not in our control!

      • But we set goals like “inviting eighty people to Alpha this year”, because that’s where our responsibility lies. In fact, that’s not something we particularly should be praying about - we just need to do it!

      • So we set goals, and we do what we can to achieve them – and then we pray for fruit


    Rethinking success in ministry

    Rethinking Success in Ministry

    • So that’s one thing we as leaders need to do, in response to this. The second is to evaluate what goals we should be pursuing, and what fruit we should be praying for, in the light of Paul’s view of ministry success

      • So, when faced with Romans 15, my goals would be to send people to unreached people groups, as a church, and to preach the gospel to those who have not yet heard it (or understood it) in our town

        • At the very start of Romans, Paul put it like this: “I am in debt to Barbarians and Greeks.” COIGN BIFFA BIN STORY. Our responsibility is to deliver the mail – but not to get them to pay their bills

      • Similarly, in the light of 1 Thessalonians 3, we might revise our goals pastorally

        • WILLOW CREEK did this after their Reveal Survey: people who read the Bible are closer to God

        • What would your pastoral structure look like if your key question was, “how do we help people stand fast in the Lord?”

      • And thirdly, we may also need to rethink our goals theologically

        • Do you even have a “theological” goal in ministry? Do you see the purpose of the Christian leader as preserving and transmitting the gospel, and biblical doctrine, that way? Paul certainly did

        • In our generation, the authority of Scripture is the big thing. When you hand over to the next generation, will you be able to say you’ve “kept the faith” and “proclaimed the whole counsel of God”?

        • And will you have raised up leaders, as Paul talks about in 2 Timothy 2:2, who will continue that way?

      • So we may need to reconfigure our goals, on the basis of what a successful ministry looks like

      • And then we pursue them, with all our hearts, and we ask God for fruit: salvation, maturity, faithfulness

    • May all of us, as we conclude our ministries, be able to say with Paul that we have fulfilled the gospel of Christ, that we truly live because our churches are standing fast in the Lord, and that we have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. PRAY


    What does a successful ministry look like

    • 1 Thess 3:6-8: “But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you—for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.”

    • Acts 20:26-27: “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”

    • 2 Timothy 4:6-7: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

    • Romans 15:19: “From Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ.”


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