Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Measuring Success in the Pulpit

"For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ." (2Co 2.17 ESV)

When can a preacher know he is doing his best in proclaiming Truth? Is there any spiritual yardstick whereby he can measure his success?

1. A large church?
2. Popularity?
3. Riches and influence?
4. Best-selling books and a nationally syndicated television program?

John Wesley, in his Sermons, #136, "On Corrupting the Word of God", gives us a plumbline whereby we can measure the "success" of a preacher:

"If, then, we have spoken the word of God, the genuine unmixed word of God, and that only; if we have put no unnatural interpretation upon it, but [have] taken the known phrases in their common, obvious sense, — and when they were less known, explained scripture by scripture; if we have spoken the whole word, as occasion offered, though rather the parts which seemed most proper to give a check to some fashionable vice, or to encourage the practice of some unfashionable virtue; and if we have done this plainly and boldly, though with all the mildness and gentleness that the nature of the subject will bear; — then, believe ye our works, if not our words; or rather, believe them both together. Here is all a Preacher can do; all the evidence that he either can or need give of his good intentions. There is no way but this to show he speaks as of sincerity, as commissioned by the Lord, and as in his sight."

Here is the Anglican priest's checklist for a faithful minister of the Word:

1. Preach the Word plainly and boldly without subtracting or adding to it.
2. Interpret the Word according to it's plain sense.
3. Interpret difficult passages by using better understood passages.
4. Preach all the Word, not fearing to to rebuke popular sin and not fearing to declare unpopular truth.

What if a preacher is faithful to the ministry of the Word and it doesn't "work" with others? Wesley had his own view of obstinate hearts; let's look one more time to "On Corrupting the Word of God":

"If there be any who, after all this, will not believe that it is his concern, not our own, we labour for; that our first intention in speaking, is to point him the way to happiness, and to disengage him from the great road that leads to misery; we are clear of the blood of that man; — it rests on his own head. For thus saith the Lord, who hath set us as watchmen over the souls of our countrymen and brethren: 'If thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it;' — much more if we use all methods possible to convince him that the warning is of God; — 'if he do not turn from his way,' — which certainly he will not, if he do not believe that we are in earnest, — 'he shall die in his iniquity, but thou hast delivered thine own soul.'"

No, one can be commissioned by God to preach--and he may be unpopular and not heeded! He may never get that cherished book deal or television program. He may not pastor a large megachurch and have devoted followers hanging upon his every rivoting word.

In fact, a faithful preacher may be neglected or abused. But that's not his problem.

Fidelity is the preacher's task; conversion is the Lord's responsibility.