Enjoy the Ride

At DTS I'm currently enrolled in a Bible Exposition class with Dr. Jay Quine. He's a new addition to the faculty at DTS, who comes from Philadelphia College of the Bible. Prior to his career in ministry, Dr. Quine was a successful attorney and the youngest judge appointed in the history of the state of Washington. So, the perspective he brings to our discussion of the Major and Minor Prophets is truly unique. I've particularly enjoyed the wisdom he has employed in showing the practical relevance of the Old Testament Prophets to ministry and culture in today's society.

Last week we began studying Isaiah. The class discussion centered around Isaiah's call in chapter 6. If you're familiar with the story, you know that God called Isaiah to proclaim a message of judgment and destruction to the people of Israel. It wasn't a pretty job. Isaiah would be responsible for prophesying the doom of a people who would eventually be carried out of their homes on meat hooks. His message: Repent or be judged. And the response is already declared by God (6:9-13). The people won't listen to Isaiah.

For Isaiah, success is failure. The people won't listen to his message. They won't respond in faith. They will be judged despite Isaiah's pleas. In order for Isaiah to be faithful to God's call, his proclamation of the message must fail. A similar concept is found in ministries throughout the Old Testament, but specifically with the prophets. Success, in God's eyes was failure.

What does this mean for current ministries and ministers as we attempt to define success for our ministries? Is it possible that some of us must fail in our ministries to be successful before God? Is it possible that we're misdefining what success in the church truly is?

I posed this question to Dr. Quine after class, and his answer blew me away. "Success in ministry is none of your business," he said. "Your responsibility is to enjoy the ride."

At first, I didn't like his answer. I'm a type-A, success-driven guy. I want my church and ministry to be successful. But the more I think about it, the more I think he's right.

My responsibility as a pastor isn't to have a successful church. My responsibility as a pastor is to live every day in fellowship with God, and leave the results of my ministry to Him. Whether my church converts four thousand or four isn't any of my business in the ultimate scheme of things. We may plant seeds, but God causes the growth.

Why is Saddleback pushing twenty thousand members while many gifted, talented, visionary pastors are working in churches of less than fifty? If we think it's because of the gifts of the staff, or the vision of the leader, I'm afraid we're short sighted. God's grace has allowed that church to explode, and God's grace has allowed the other church to remain small. "Success," as we define it, is not any of our business. Our business is to enjoy the ride.


Unknown said...

another great post Chris....I enjoy reading these and being challenged.
I too like what Dr. Quine is saying but I'm on the other side. I'm a lay leader in a small church that can't afford to pay it's pastor let alone a worship leader or a childrens/youth minister. Is he suggesting we "enjoy the ride" we are on with God and not be concerned about being able to attract enough people to pay some basic bills? To not use our God-given creativity in order to reach our community?
As you can see I'm conflicted....I like the answer but is it the opinion of someone who has worked only in an established church where sufficient giving provides sufficient ministry staffing? Just wondering.....

Chris Freeland said...

Good comment. I can't speak for Dr. Quine, but my initial response is "praise God" for the opportunity you have. You have the opportunity to see God provide in extremely tangible ways that most of the "established" churches take for granted every day.

Certainly, I don't think there's anything wrong with outreach or evangelism. But your success can't be measured by the number of people involved in the ministry. Your success as a lay leader will come as you enjoy the ride, and as God receives the glory for your ministry.

Those are just my thoughts. Anyone else have some?

Chris Freeland said...

By the way, get the heck out of Houston this weekend...

Unknown said...

You are right....one of the difficulties we have is that we often want to "push the rope" so to speak. In other words...attempt to manipulate God by thinking we DO need more people...not just new believers but bona fide, established giving Christians.
I guess that's my business side that comes out....which I was reminded about the night during one of our leadership meetings with an advising elder from the mother church....he reminded all of us that "if God sees fit to grow this church, he'll do it"..."God's resources are unlimited"
So...in a sense, I think he was echoing what Dr. Quine had to say to you.
But again there always remains that "tension" between enjoying the ride and trying to add gasoline to the ride.

We're going to ride it out...we are sufficiently north of the coast that tidal surge is not a problem and I don't anticipate flooding being an issue (we went thru Allison 4 years ago and she dropped 18" on us in 24 hrs.)...the only concern is the loss of power and potential tree falls.
It's getting chaotic outside so it seems better to be in the house.

Chris Freeland said...

You're such a rebel.

They're freaking out about the hurricane here in Dallas. People are stockpiling water and canned food - the weatherman says we could get 9 inches of rain. Kari and I are taking the opposite approach. We're stockpiling Dr. Pepper and candy bars. If things get bad outside, we're not going to make them worse by having to choke down health food.

Unknown said...

You're kidding? You guys are 200 miles away...do you see anyone outside building an ARK too?

It's still clear skies here but expect the storm to move in after mid-day today.

My daughter and I walked over to the CVS pharmacy yesterday afternoon to pick up a few things before they close..well it so happens that we are close enough to I-45 and the Hardy toll road that are main artery to the Interstate was plugged up with people trying to move north....well a significant amount of these people were in the Pharmacy yesterday. Having lived overseas for several years, it kind of reminded me of living in a 3rd world country again inside the store...the A/C was off, boxes torn open and debris strewn across the floor, shelves cleaned off, a line snaking around the store to the checkout stand.

We did get an email from our daughters High School late last night...which is only a couple of blocks away from I-45....it seems the County has called them and asked that they open up as a shelter for those people who are running out of gas on the freeway and are being affected by the heat. They said they've already put up their food supplies and to bring water, juice, virtually anything for these people as well as volunteers.
It's a good opportunity for us guys/gals at the church to band together and get up there and help out our fellow man in need.

Chris Freeland said...

Sounds like a great ministry opportunity. Enjoy the ride.