I was recently asked what defines ministry success for me? Is success being liked by everyone? Having everyone get along? Everyone saved? Everyone’s needs met? Having a lot of money? So I have spent time thinking about what the Bible says about success and I think there are three “F”s of success to consider… Fruit, Feedback, and Fuel.
Years ago I had the privilege of working on a farm. Whether we were planting or harvesting, ultimately everything we did all year was to have a good crop. The same is true in our organization. The Bible says, “Every tree is recognized by it’s fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers” Luke 6:44. People do not seek out prickly, upset, or hurtful people. The Bible says we can grow in the fruit of the Spirit, becoming more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, full of the goodness of God, faithful, gentle, and long suffering. We will be successful if we communicate the FRUIT of the Spirit.
When we were harvesting we would have to stop to unload when the combine was full. We were receiving feedback from the machine. Some farms have a grain cart so they unload while moving. The combine driver and the driver of the grain cart have to be able to communicate and listen to each other, and the cart has to be perfectly positioned under the combine spout or there will be grain all over the ground. The cart driver can be confident he’s doing well, but if the combine stops for a rock and the cart driver doesn’t listen, grain will be spilled. Often times in a position of leadership, we feel really sure we know which way to go which leaves no room to listen to others. However God never meant for this to be a one man show. He intended it to be a body with many parts. The eye cannot say to the hand, “ I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 1 Co 12:21. We will be successful if we listen to FEEDBACK.
If the weather is good and we can unload on the go, the only thing that stops the harvest are the needs of the machinery. While Air Force One can fuel on the go, our tractors and trucks have to stop for fuel. Each morning we would spend an hour greasing and fueling the equipment. Often late in the day we would have to take a break and refuel. Sometimes we would have to stop to attend to a breakdown. I’m so thankful the farmer doesn’t have to pick each piece of grain or carry it all to the elevator by himself. So he’s willing to stop and make sure the equipment has what it needs. The Bible says God gave (church leaders) to prepare and equip God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith Eph 4:12 We will be successful if we take time to FUEL others, preparing, equipping, and supporting those who serve with us.
May we experience ministry success as we grow in Fruit, Feedback, and Fuel.
As a pastor I spend most of my time in one of two areas. I serve people suffering weakness, like hospitalizations or financial needs, and I spend time responding to conflicts like broken marriages and church disagreements. I was recently encouraged by Dr. Zack Eswine (The Imperfect Pastor) when he shared the story of how David responded to these things in 1 Samuel 30.
In previous chapters David had been fleeing King Saul who was trying to kill him and then he was rejected by the Philistine leaders in 1 Samuel 29 who didn’t approve of him. In the beginning of chapter 30 David and his men were raided and all their wives and children were taken. David’s men were so upset they wept till they had no more strength to weep, and then they talked of stoning David. And the Bible says, “David encouraged himself in the Lord.” As we continue reading, some of David’s men were so overcome with grief they were too weak to go recapture their wives and children, so 200 of them stayed behind. Upon reclaiming all the wives and children and plundering the Amalekites, the 400 who went resented the 200 who stayed back and refused to share the plunder with them.
And David, having strengthened himself in the Lord, was able to “manage well with all dignity” (1Ti3:4) and give grace to them all. Those too weak to contribute were blessed alongside those who worked hard for it. And those in conflict, who were filled with resentment, were blessed alongside those who had been overcome by love for their families. May we strengthen ourselves in the Lord and bless those who are weak and those who are angry.
Be encouraged; God’s grace is for you.
Recently I saw a commercial featuring marathon joggler Michal Kapral, who set a world record in running a full marathon while juggling, otherwise known as joggling. While in a pastoral transition I could relate to the high pace of life while trying to keep multiple balls in the air. See Michal talk about this … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDd07tyMwzA
Pastoral ministry is much like juggling while running a marathon. There are certainly times of fatigue and endurance. There is as much mental stamina required as physical, oh, and spiritual stamina too! What most people may not realize is that every pastor I know, whether serving in a one pastor church, or those serving in a multiple staff churches, every pastor is running and juggling multiple things while trying not to let one of those balls drop. And when a ball does drop, there’s the grief of people focusing on the one ball bouncing alongside rather than the successful juggling and running act being performed right in front of their eyes! This criticizing the imperfect circus act can feel very isolating.
I find the same is true in my walk with Jesus. Why is it that before becoming a Christian, I didn’t feel good enough for God apart from Jesus, but now that I’m in Christ, I don’t feel good enough for God with Jesus? I’m also focused on the one ball bouncing alongside this miraculous event of the Holy Spirit functioning within me? The Holy Spirit’s ministry in me makes me look like I’m running and juggling at the same time!
While in a pastoral transition we often find ourselves juggling a few new balls on top of the usual. There’s the ball of insecurity that comes with a new position or the lack of one. There’s the ball of new problems and/or new responsibilities to face. And then there’s that big medicine ball of fear that comes with a transition. Ever tried to juggle a medicine ball and two tennis balls?! We have to learn to administrate new things to get this ship back to safe harbor!
When life is moving too fast and there’s too many balls to juggle, I’m reminded of the story of Mary and Martha. Jesus says Martha is worried and upset about many things, including her project partner. But Mary is at peace and enjoying what is most important, a forever friend.
So in joggling pastoral transitions, may we overcome the tendency to be discouraged, worried, or upset about things like our project partners, and may we enjoy the forever friends that He provides along the way.
Oh, and way to go, you juggle and run really well!