The end of the conference year is coming in The Wesleyan Church. This is when we audit our books and post the results of our church’s ministry for the year. For a few, this will be a time of joy because they have experienced much fruit as a result of their church ministries.
For others, this will be a time of doubt, dread, frustration, and mourning, because they will not have the fruit to show as a result of their ministries. For many of these ministers they will be challenged to continue on in ministry. Some will feel a sense of jealousy and their pride will be wounded deeply. After all, no matter what denomination that you are in, when you see other churches doing well it is easy to feel discouraged.
Some examples of discouragement are things that are felt indirectly. There seems to be an undercurrent that is heard, felt, or imagined that they have not performed their duties well enough. Yet, maybe they have performed their duties as they should.
The good news that should encourage ministers, from all denominations and church sizes, is that Dr. Joe Dongell reminded us once that we (ministers) are not the Lord of Harvest. Our duty is to plant and water the seeds. When God and the people are ready, He will be the One who harvests them.
Here is more good news from the book of John. I’ve been spending some time in this book lately and found something that seemed to be a good reminder to all pastors who are not seeing the results they desire. So I want to share some Scriptures that might remind us that we are taking too much upon ourselves as ministers of the gospel. Let’s be for real. Sometimes ministers fight the battle of taking things personal because the church’s ministry success has been tied to them, either by their choice or others’, instead of to Jesus Christ.
In John 3:22-30, Jesus has become greater than John the Baptist. This means that if you John the Baptist that you realize that you really are becoming less in your community. John knew what his mission was; point people to the One who came after him though He is before him. Also, Jesus’ disciples are baptizing more people than John. For ministers, this means that the people of your congregation are leaving to go to another church because it is new or there is more action.
First striking reaction from Pastor John the Baptist when he is alerted to the growth of Jesus’ ministry was that he has joy over it. Yes, I said that the John felt joy over it. Now, this is in contrast to the long introduction that I just gave. Why? Verse 29a, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom.” Kind of what Dongell said. The Church (the people of Christ) belongs to Christ. This means that if ministers feel discouraged it is time to check our motives for success. Is about us or Him? The people in the congregation are not yours. They have been Ransomed by Someone else.
Second, verse 29b, “The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice.” Ministers are attendees of the Church. We are friends that Christ has placed trust in to care for His Church (the Bride). The mark of a true friend is the demonstration of the joy felt when the Jesus does with His people as He sees fit.
Finally, in verse 29c John said, “That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” Then He ends with verse 30, “He must become greater; I must become less.” To be a true friend, we must become faithful. Yet, not just faithful out of duty, but because we want to be faithful; a faithful friend to Christ. This means that we are supposed to be attached to success of Jesus connecting with people instead of attached to the success of us connecting to people and receiving accolades for it.
Discouragement, frustration, and etc, are felt when we ministers do not understand who is responsible for church growth/fruit. When we feel this way, we need to consider that John the Baptist was just before prison and in the midst of his decline in ministry, but still felt joy and complete at the success of another.
You might be a small church pastor who needs to verbally say out loud that your joy is complete because another minister is doing well. After all, we are just attendees who point the bride to the groom.