I recently read a tagline for a minor-Christian 'celebrity' pastor that has ironically been used for dozens of speakers in recent years: [Insert Name] is the pastor of the 'fastest growing' church in America. Well, get ready buddy, because somebody else will soon be the taking your place. You might have been the fresh face last week… but you'll get stale pretty quick.
To youth pastors current and future I write this: Don't fall prey to the subtle, recurring lie that tempts you: You're only as cool as your last event
Or, said another way: You'd better top yourself next week.
Or, from another angle: Your attendance better keep growing.
Or, in conversation: Q: How'd youth group go? (aka: "How many students did you have last night?")
Or, in a self-awareness: I feel like I'm more of an event-planner than a pastor.
Jesus didn't seem to feel the pressure to one-up himself every week. When the masses wanted to crown him with their agenda, he resisted. When the crowds grew, he went off to pray. If he had 2-3 gathered, he was truly satisfied in their midst. In fact, something about the people's celebritization of his work troubled him. He was after something more from people than recognition and glory… he wanted patient, long-term change. He always had wanted that… from Genesis three through Revelations 21.
And so, by our short-term, shallow, contemporary measurements of success, Jesus was a disappointment. Look at these numerical trends:
- First mass feeding: 5,0001
- Next mass feeding: 4,0002
- Next mass feeding: Oh, wait, there wasn't one
What explains the dip in attendance? I suppose the food wasn't good enough? Or maybe Jesus didn't book the right entertainment or market a sell-able controversy.
Here's another stat trend:
- Initial followers: 123
- Second wave: 724
- Final countdown: 45
Or how about the sick, fickle shift of the throngs:
- Directed towards Jesus: Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!6
- Directed against Jesus 5 days later: We have no king but Caesar! Crucify him!7
Was Jesus not successful? Well, according to our gauge, he was not. And that should tell us that the gauge we use is the wrong instrument for the work we do. It's like we're trying to measure weight in centimeters.
So here are some questions I'm pondering today:
- What should be the standard for success in ministry?
- What is it that Jesus was after in ministry… and shouldn't this be our goal?
- What if we emphasized the normal days rather than the big events – how would our patterns of ministry change— how would the long-term effectiveness of ministry change?
- ____________________? [insert more questions]
May we pursue the patterns of Jesus in our pursuit of ministry.
- Mark 6:30
- Mark 8:1
- Luke 9:1
- Luke 10:1
- Including his mom, 2 other Mary's, and John – see John 19:25
- John 12:12
- John 19:15