One of the greatest temptations I face as a pastor is putting the success of my ministry on my shoulders and defining the success of my ministry on world’s standards rather than the Lord’s. Simply put, it gets to you a little when you hear about how many people another student ministry is “reaching” and the thought creeps in, maybe I need to change my approach or maybe I need to be more aggressive, more likeable, more seeker-sensitive, more anything to reach more people, right?
Well, interestingly enough, the Bible never tells us that the ministry of the church is on my shoulders. The conversion of the lost and the spiritual growth of Christians are the work of God. And praise God, I don’t have to be cool enough or outgoing enough to do what God has called me to do. I just need to seek by God’s grace to be faithful. The great commission is a command–“go and make disciples” but it is a command with a precious promise, Jesus says, “I will be with you” (Matt 28:18-20). So the strength, courage, and wisdom I need–God will provide! And further, the means by which we make disciples is not up to us either–God sets forth the appropriate means. The means we are to utilize in making disciples is “teaching them to observe all that [Jesus] has commanded” (Matt 28:20).
So if there is anything that I must do consistently as a pastor, it is to teach what Christ has commanded. That is discipleship, teaching others what Christ has commanded. That doesn’t always look glamorous and certainly does not meet the “success requirements” of the world, but doing so makes a difference unto eternity. And lets be honest, there are so many shortcuts that could potentially lead to “success” in the eyes of the world but would fall short of fulfilling the great commission and being obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ. For instance, I could stop hosting student Bible studies on Wednesday night and instead we could just play games and watch movies all night and throw in a little prayer or devotion at the end to say we have made the night about Jesus. Doing so might bring more students to our ministry, but would we be making disciples? Biblical discipleship is a messy business, real sin must be dealt with, genuine repentance called for, and courageous steps of faith must be taken, but we have a mighty God who gives us strength to face all of Discipleship’s challenges (Phil 4:13).
There are always going to be things I could do better as a pastor, and I am not completely opposed to trying to be relevant. I just think that nothing is more relevant than the Word of God which speaks the glorious, timeless truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. My job, not just as a pastor, but as a Christian is to make disciples by teaching them the Word of God. When I teach young people to be disciples-they will tell their friends about Christ, God will work in their friends lives and radically change them from the inside out, so that in the end I will all say with Paul, “let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31). In other words, when we are faithful, God blesses that, works through it, and yields fruit in our lives to His glory!
So what does this have to do with you as a member of a local church? As a Christian? Well, as a follower of Jesus, you will face the same temptations to cut corners in your ministry in the home or at your workplace. For instance, it is a lot easier to just put in a Veggie Tales movie or enroll your children in VBS each summer than it is to consistently pray with them and read the Bible to them daily. But which is more faithful? Or at work, it’s probably a lot easier to invite your friends to a big event or to forward them an evangelistic email than it is to get to know them personally so that you can begin to talk to them about the gospel and can address the gospel to their lives and invite them to church in a more meaningful way. But which is more faithful?
God’s plan for discipleship involves teaching everything He has commanded (Matt. 28:20) . . . does that sound too difficult to you? It should. But do not fall into despair, “because of [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). Discipleship is the great task God has given you as a Christian in your family, your workplace and our church, but its end is completely in God’s hands–He merely calls you to be faithful to the task and trust Him in midst of it.