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What Counts In a Successful Ministry

When I came to North America, I found that most churches, pastors, seminaries, colleges, and parachurch agencies and agents were in the grip of this secular passion for successful expansion in a way I had not met in England. Church-growth theorists, evangelists, pastors, missionaries, and others all spoke as if:

1. numerical increase is what matters most,

2. numerical increase must come if our techniques and procedures are right,

3. numerical increase validates ministries as nothing else does, and

4. numerical increase must be everyone’s main goal.

Four unhappy features marked the situation. First, big and growing churches were viewed as far more significant than others. Second, parachurch specialists (evangelists, college and seminary teachers with platform skills, medicine men with traveling seminars, convention-circuit riders, top people in youth movements, full-time authors and such) were venerated, while hard-working pastors were treated as near-nonentities. Third, lively laymen and clergy were constantly being creamed off, or creaming themselves off, from the churches to run parachurch ministries, in which quicker results could be expected and where accountability was less stringent. And fourth, many ministers of not-so-bouncy temperament were returning to secular employment in disillusionment and bitterness, having concluded that the pastoral life is a game not worth playing. . . Faithfulness, godliness, and loving service are the divine measure of real success in ministry

J. I. Packer, Christianity Today, August 12, 1988, p. 15

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