Is that pastor successful? What is success in pastoral ministry?

Dan Phillips of Pyromaniacs has asserted that the most difficult aspect of pastoral ministry is trying to measure success. I’m open to debate on that, but I think he’s onto something.

I have some ideas on how success should be measured, but I’m interested as well in the thoughts of other pastors and those who have pastors.

What makes for a successful pastor(al ministry)?

I think the biblical answer as to what God deems success is faithfulness, employing your all dependently on the Spirit to the glory of God alone.

The degree to which one does that is the degree to which one is faithful and consequently successful, in the eyes of God.

Now, in the human reality in which we attempt to live, I derive satisfaction (rightly or wrongly) when I see fruit of my labor.

Theologically, I may think one thing, but practically, I easily get discouraged when I see paltry “results.”

In other words, I preach and teach with the goal of changed lives to the glory of God. I can’t so much perceive that without the benefit of elapsed time and without personal relationships to pick up on life change that is cognitive, affective, and/or behavioral.

Paul had joy in the faithfulness of the Philippians and their unity (Philippians 2:1-2), and I can understand that. John’s joy was in hearing that his disciples were walking in truth (3 John 4).

I have been blessed to have shepherded some people for years and have seen God do amazing things in taking rebels and making them faithful servants of the Most High. Having had a part in that brings me great joy.

Of course, I’ve also poured myself into others who have shipwrecked their lives, betrayed me, and just plain walked away from the faith. So, I know there’s much more to the equation than what little I do. (cf. 1 Cor 3:6-7)

I think success as humans deem it (e.g., pulpit committee, seminaries, publishers, etc.) may be quite different from that which God sees as successful.

A “pulpit committee” (hate the term because pastoral ministry is so much more) wants to see results during your tenure. This is like the “plus/minus” statistic in hockey. They realize there are other players on the ice, but did more good things (e.g., bottoms in seats, bucks in plate, and buildings erected) than bad things happen while you were pastor?

A seminary defines success in similar fashion. How often does the guy who’s labored 30 years in rural Oklahoma in a declining population, struggling just to minimize the bleeding, get asked to speak in chapel? What about the hip guy in a rapidly growing area whose church quadrupled in size in 3 years?

Who buys books from someone without a “name” or certain letters after the author’s name? Doesn’t quantitative success give the author ethos whereby books might be sold?

Pastor how do you define if you’ve been successful? Can you still be successful if your church dies or that couple you counseled divorces?

Peeps … what makes your pastor a success in your eyes? Do you communicate that to him or does he feel the pressure to “produce results” … even from his own congregation?


About Eric "Gunny" Hartman

Gunny is pastor of Providence Church in Plano, TX, and has taught at Dallas Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has completed coursework for a PhD in Rhetoric at University of Texas at Arlington and tries to be a good father to his 4 kiddos, exhibited by coaching a girls soccer team.


5 thoughts on “Is that pastor successful? What is success in pastoral ministry?

  1. >I think that’s the right attitude to have, Jay, though I might tweak it a bit and substitute “discouragements” instead of the term “failures.”I think it’s (often) hard for us to have the knowledge necessary to determine success or failure, for what may be our failure may very well be a piece in God’s successful plan.Yet, some things will discourage us when we don’t get intended results and I think you’re right in how we should respond.As well, there should be the right attitude toward those things we deemed successful, wherein we get the results we desired/anticipated.God is to be glorified as we recognize His gracious hand giving us the join of being a part of His productivity.Thanks for weighing in.

    Posted by GUNNY | May 31, 2008, 4:17 am
  2. >Hi Gun. This is a difficult issue. I think every ministry, like every true believer, is always a success and failure. It is simultaneously righteous and sinful. It’s success is dependent (instrumentally speaking) on how it responds to its failures (i.e. sin). If it responds in faith and repentance, clinging to the covenant promises (i.e. the gospel) of the triune God as its only comfort and joy in this world, then it must be successful. To consider it anything else is to make God a liar.

    Posted by M. Jay Bennett | May 30, 2008, 11:39 pm
  3. >Well, David, that was underwhelming … informative, but underwhelming.I was concocting a great conspiracy theory in my mind, but you had to kill it with the truth.;-)Thanks for solving this mystery, Uncle Scooby.

    Posted by GUNNY | May 29, 2008, 3:46 pm
  4. >I was the one who wrote the removed comment.It was a grammatic train wreck. Not much more to it than that. So never mind 🙂

    Posted by David Cho | May 29, 2008, 6:45 am
  5. >Is it just me, or is it common to ponder what precipitates a comment being removed?I find that action more interesting and thought-provoking than the best of normal comments.It’s like when someone says, “You know what’s interesting … oh, nevermind” or “I probably shouldn’t say this but … well, I’ll hold off.”What a tease! 😉

    Posted by GUNNY | May 28, 2008, 1:23 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

From the Vault

Friend of Grace

All articles © 2007-2011 by the respective authors of the Conservative Reformed Mafia. All Rights Reserved.
%d bloggers like this: