How do I know if my ministry is fruitful?

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by Classical Presbyterian, May 7, 2009.

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  1. Classical Presbyterian

    Classical Presbyterian Puritan Board Junior

    I was reflecting on my pastoral ministry last night and was getting quite discouraged, for no one reason in particular. So, I wanted to ask if you all could help me understand what I should be looking for in the life of the congregation as a sign (or indicator) that my pastoral ministry is bearing fruit.

    What does a fruitful ministry look like for a pastor? For a congregation?

    How do you know if you are doing what is needed in your pastoral labors?

    Basically, I could not tell if my discouragement was a voice of the Tempter inciting me to sinful despair or if it was the Spirit challenging me to change the way I am being a pastor. I also want the perspectives of church members, so I did not post this in the pastor's only area. I really could use your insights in what I, as a pastor, should be looking for to determine if my work is at all useful for the Kingdom or if I am just spinning my wheels in fruitless repetition.

    Feel free to offer specific examples of what you have seen as fruitful pastoral ministry in your congregation or the negative (fruitless) examples as well!
     
  2. PresbyDane

    PresbyDane Puritanboard Doctor

    :popcorn:
     
  3. Joseph Scibbe

    Joseph Scibbe Puritan Board Junior

    A pastors sucess is not measured in "decisions" or baptisms, but on faithfulness to God and His Word.
     
  4. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    I have been in two church situations where on the outside it appeared that there was very little if any 'fruit'. I tried to be faithful to the Lord and his word, but it continually felt like I was banging my head against the wall. Only when God in his providence moved us to a different church was I able to see the fruit. The faithful proclamation of the word is never without fruit.
     
  5. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    Many years ago an older pastor (probably he was the age I am now) told me, when I was feeling discouraged about ministry: "Pastoring is like eating spaghetti while wearing a white shirt. Make one mistake and everyone knows about it, do a good job and you'll just have to be satisfied with a clean shirt." I took that to heart and took it to mean exactly what Joseph said.
     
  6. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    That is a perfect illustration.

    One thing my father has said to me over and over, 'God is not concerned about your success. He is concerned about your faithfulness.'
     
  7. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    I would say that if you can see evidence of the Word dividing people, that is a sign that you are doing your job. One of my good friends once told me that when he goes into the pulpit, he can almost go through all the people in the congregation and go "sheep, goat, goat, sheep, sheep, goat," based on how they are responding to the Word of God. You will see the sheep growing spiritually and responding to your preaching. You will see the goats turning sour on you. If the number of converts is an indication of success, then our Lord was a poorer Shepherd even than Peter. Our Lord had hardly any converts. Jeremiah preached to a people who completely rejected what he had to say. In other words, the division I referred to may mean that all the people in your congregation are goats. If so, then success will eventually be that they kick you out, because they want you to stop talking about the Holy One of Israel. Church growth is not just numerical: it is spiritual as well.

    Evangelism needs to happen, and pastors need to be doing it. However, you can scatter seed all you want, but the conversions come from the Lord. Ultimately, the size of the congregation, or whether it is shrinking numerically or not is not ultimately dependent on you. You can be perfectly faithful in a church that eventually closes. The question is: "Are you preaching as a dying man to dying men?"
     
  8. JBaldwin

    JBaldwin Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    My grandmother used to fret over fruitfulness, because in her lifetime as a believer (she became a believer when she was 40 and died in her late 80s) she never saw a personal convert. She told me that his bothered her until she realized that God might never show her fruit. What she didn't see was the number of lives that had been changed (and are still changing almost 15 years after her death) because of her prayers and faithfulness to God. Abraham also believed without receiving the promise.

    I don't see in Scripture where God calls conversions or baptisms or large numbers "fruit". He describes the "fruit of the Spirit" much differently. When I look at a pastor, I look at his personal life and example. I also look at his faithfulness to the word of God. If the congregation is healthy spiritually, then the pastor is doing his job.

    Galatians 5 contrasts the fruit of the Spirit with the works of the flesh. If "body life" reflects the fruit of the Spirit, then the pastor is being the example he should be. If the church looks more like the works of the flesh listed in Galatians 5, then I believe the pastor AND the leadership should take a long hard look at themselves and ask God what is wrong.

    Being around my pastor and elders has made me want to know the Lord more. I watch their example of loving Christ, loving the church, loving the lost, caring for the flock and be grounded in God's word. They are men I want to follow, and it has produced more growth in me and in my family.
     
  9. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    Toby,

    I want to thank you for your post. Even though discouragement is not a good place to be, the fact that you are searching your soul with the desire to be a better pastor is evidence of God's grace working in you. A true shepherd is always concerned over the state of his flock and the faithfulness of his shepherding. You are standing in the tradition of Jesus who "had compassion" on the crowds and Paul who was burdened with the "anxiety of all the churches."

    It is refreshing to see that you are willing to assign blame to yourself rather than on the "stupid sheep" or, ultimately, God. Now, I'm not saying that you are to blame for anything, only that I am glad you are not conceited to think you must be doing everything right.

    I don't know what objective aspects to look for. I think if self-examination reveals that you are growing in repentance and dependence on Christ, then things are probably on track in your ministry. If there are a few people in your congregation who are growing into the capacity of elders (or elders who are growing in their eldering), then that is evidence that God is bearing fruit among you. Also, if there is a general burden in the church for the souls of lost people, that is evidence of God as well.

    I will be praying for you brother, as one who is "afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in [your body]." 2 Corinthians 4:8-10
     
  10. Reluctantly Reforming

    Reluctantly Reforming Puritan Board Freshman

    Toby, a question: who do you have walking through this discouragement with you? Are there brothers in attendance, who can lift you with testimony to God's fruitfulness in you, or alternatively, to rebuke with love?

    My times of discouragement in ministry were often accompanied by loneliness, which both made them the more bitter, and reduced my ability to think clearly about why I was where I was. I would encourage you to reach out to faithful brothers who know you well.
     
  11. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    I'm preaching on John 6:66-71 this coming Lord's Day. Obviously, if we use the world's standards as a measuring stick, Jesus' own ministry would have to be considered unfruitful. He starts the chapter with 5000+ followers, and He winds up with only 12 (and one of those is a devil!).

    Are you being faithful to the ministry to which God has called you? If faithfulness defines you, then consider your ministry to be fruitful in bringing glory to the Lord. You are faithful, pastor, if you proclaim the words of life to a congregation that disparately needs to hear them. You are faithful if you love your people, feed them, and chase off the dogs and kill the wolves that would otherwise harm them. You are faithful when you continue to point them to Christ -- even though you have done so countless times before -- because you know He is their only hope. You are faithful when you face those times when you just want to quit, to go another way that would seem easier, and yet you find yourself returning to minister in the power of the Spirit to His people. You are faithful, dear pastor, when you mine God's word and give its treasures to His people. You are faithful when like the prophets of old you tell them the truth instead of tickling their ears. You are faithful, when you give of your most precious of finite resources -- your time -- to study His word for the sake of His people, to pray without ceasing for them, to comfort them, to counsel them, to rejoice with them. And above all else, you are faithful (and will bear much fruit) if you are walking with Christ -- we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which He has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
     
  12. tgoerz

    tgoerz Puritan Board Freshman

    Toby...let me provide a bit of levity.....an actual incident recorded by the elders of a Scottish church in the early 1800's....the elders were questioning why a certain woman was too often absent from the church and attending other evangelical churches in the neighborhood....in an effort to contrast the benefits of the other congregations to her own she stated that at a certain church "the sheep are fed" and at another church "the lambs are provided the pure milk of the Word", the inevitable question put to her by members of the session 'what happens here?' to which she replied "Here, the dead are raised."

    On a serious note...to respond to the question 'what does a fruitful ministry look like?' I would have to adamantly ask if your flock is showing fruit themselves? Are you seeing spiritual growth/maturity among the membership?

    I think of 1Tim 4:11-12..."Command and teach these things...but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity."

    And 1Tim 4:10...."for to this end we toil and strive, because WE HAVE OUR HOPE SET ON THE LIVING GOD, WHO IS THE SAVIOUR OF ALL PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY OF THOSE WHO BELIEVE."

    And 1 Tim 4:16..."Persist in this, for by doing you will save both yourself and your hearers."
     
  13. ReformedWretch

    ReformedWretch Puritan Board Doctor

    Wow.....
     
  14. Theogenes

    Theogenes Puritan Board Junior

    I think its important to realize that faithfulness to biblical orthodoxy in the midst of great apostasy is progress, success and bearing fruit!
     
  15. Classical Presbyterian

    Classical Presbyterian Puritan Board Junior

    Hey, you guys rock! I found all of this helpful.

    I think I was just in a funk and a wee bit tempted to measure myself in worldly ways. But I've got a good fire going now and I'm keepin' on.
     
  16. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    Great! I've been praying for you. Those pastoral funks can be bad.
     
  17. tgoerz

    tgoerz Puritan Board Freshman

    Toby....praying for you everyday brother. Press on towards the prize.
     
  18. AltogetherLovely

    AltogetherLovely Puritan Board Freshman

    The fruits of the spirit (and of a ministry) are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.

    If you are obedient in those things, your ministry is fruitful. Your ministry doesn't just produce fruit, it is fruit.
     
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