In my course of ministry life, I am so blessed to get exposure to many high caliber Kingdom-minded believers. For the last twenty-five years, I have been to many church growth conferences and ministry seminars. I’ve also been blessed to read books whose authors became mentors for a season. But the older I get and the farther I travel on the journey of ministry, the more questions I seem to have. Lately, I’m concerned about the ministry realities that no one with a large platform appears to be publicly expressing.
What on God’s polychromatic planet am I talking about? I’m glad you asked. Here’s the thorn in my side. Please do not try to convince pastors, congregations, ministry leaders, and young adults entering the ministry that everyone should be pastoring a massive congregation with mega results and a mega-budget!? Stop contributing to the less than feelings of insecurity that many of you are already struggling with.
It’s not that I’m against believing for more. I mean, what preacher or musician doesn’t want to speak and minister to a larger congregation. Who among us non-mega ministers couldn’t make use of more salary? I’m okay with more, but I’m also okay with less. Whatever happened to the great gain of godly contentment?
Before I list some ministry realities, let me share a little of my story. I came to grips with God’s call on my life into ministry leadership in early 1994. I got my feet wet with preaching and teaching whenever and wherever I could. In those early days of speaking ministry, I was so hungry to exercise my budding gifts that I’d speak anywhere at any time. However, I spent the first seventeen and a half years as a bi-vocational minister. The last twelve of those seventeen were spent as a local church pastor. I’d still be doing that, had the Lord not called me into another season of ministry. The fact that I was working full-time employment in addition to carrying a full load of ministry responsibilities does not mean that I was less successful than my fully funded ministry peers. The fact that I am presently serving in a fully funded ministry capacity does not mean that I am more successful than those first seventeen and a half years. A full-time ministry was not the goal of my life or like some sort of promotion I was seeking.
What if the success of ministry is not related to the minister’s salary? What if your success is not measured by the counting of nickels in the plates and noses in the pews? Scripture teaches that our modern American standards of success are not how God measures. God is more concerned with your faithfulness and holiness than the size of your ministry and salary.
Let me cut to the chase with a few realities. We know from a historical perspective and present-day trends that the overwhelming number of American congregations are less than 100 in total people. The median number is around 75-85, depending on what part of the country you’re in. We also know that giving is in somewhat of a decline. These factors cause me to believe that bi-vocational ministry is here to stay, and I’m sure that God is okay with that. It is, after all, a biblical model for missions and ministry, regardless of the century.
Why is this important? I don’t want to burst anyone’s hyper-faith bubble, but this means that the overwhelming majority of those currently in and those entering into the ministry will be called upon to serve our Lord without being fully funded by the ministry. I’m not advocating a part-time focus; just the reality that most people will serve in a bi-vocational manner and only minister to groups of 100 and less for all of their ministry. Faithfulness to that call is what will determine your success, not your ministry size or staff structure.
So if you’re looking to become the next mega-church pastor, get ready, get ready for your ego to be deflated. They are the exceptions to the rule. You could serve faithfully for all of your life, and no one may never know your name, outside of a small circle of influence. But that’s okay since the One who called you obviously knows your name, ministry, and destiny.
All of God’s chosen servants are not five talent servants. Some of you (like myself) are two talent and one talent servants, and that’s okay. I, for one, refuse to hide or bury my talent (or talents) just because I don’t have as many as my peers. I will faithfully use what I have to the glory of God so that my Master will be pleased when He returns. See Matthew 25:14-29.
Please, stop making celebrities and idols out of servants of our Lord. There’s really only one King and one Kingdom. The rest of us are His servants.
How about you, do you ever have similar questions like the ones I have surfaced? What’s your story? Comment and share so that we can learn one from another.