Friday

The Curious Phenomenon of Success

If you are a pastor or teacher in a church, then you have probably experienced the phenomenon I am about to describe to you.  Or maybe you haven't.  If you haven't, you probably will soon.  It typically comes in two different varieties.  The first is from the people to whom you preach or teach.  The second is from other pastors, teachers, or leaders in the church.  Both share the same root:  the desire or need to quantify the success or failure of the message.

When it comes from the audience to whom you have just preached or taught it usually looks something like the following:

You have just finished your message.  Someone comes up to you and tells you something resembling this, "I really enjoyed your message" or "I really liked what you had to say today."

 I will be honest, I don't really know what to say when this happens because I never set out to preach a message that someone would like.  My goal is always to preach a message that accurately divides the Word and that comes from a desire to be obedient to what God calls me to preach.  I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will take the Word and encourage, convict, reproof, teach, and woo as He sees fit.  Nowhere in that equation does the audience liking the message factor in.  A message can be universally liked and be a gross misrepresentation of the Word.  A message can be universally disliked and be biblically faithful and God honoring.  Likability is no indicator of whether I have been obedient to Christ in my preaching.

It usually comes from other pastors or leaders in my case when I have taught or preached for them.  I then see them the next day or later in the week and they ask me, "How did it go?" or "Did it go well?"  I know the heart behind the question is pure but, again, I don't really know how to respond.  It may have seemed to go well to me, but ultimately have no lasting impact on eternity.  Or it may have seemed to me to have been an abject failure but ultimately be eternally signifcant.  There really is no way to gauge effectiveness immediately following a message.  Many might respond but end up falling away later in life.  No one may respond but seed may have been planted that later lead to an incredible harvest once someone else had watered them.

So far now I guess I will just keep responding to the appreciative congregation member with "Thank you" and to the inquisitive fellow pastor with "Fine, I guess."