THe Big 5
      I came across a study done by George Barna where he surveyed a large number of evangelical pastors.  He asked them what their parameters were for measuring their ministry success.  He said 5 points overwhelmingly emerged.  They were; Attendance, Giving, Number of programs, Number of staff, and square footage of their facility.  He said that very few offered up a healthy, growing condition of the Spirit in the lives of their people as a sign of ministry "success."  Can we take a moment to think about that?  Can it really be true that the square footage of the building we meet in has more priority in our ministry thinking than the well-being of those we are charged to care for?  Yet, I cannot point a finger at any of them because for most of my ministry life, those five points have been how I've measured success as well.  It was not that I didn't want people to grow in the Spirit, but consciously or not, that was a secondary concern to the "big 5" as put forth by Barna's study.
     There was another aspect to the study that was more than alarming, it was frightening.  Pastor's were asked as to whether or not they believed in the power and authority of the whole word of God as revealed in scripture.  Over 90% said that they did.  Yet, when pressed as to whether or not they were willing to preach the whole word, even if doing so came into direct conflict with the cultural norms and values surrounding their ministry, only 10% said that they would risk that.  They admitted that to do so would mean offending many within their congregation.  Many might leave, and then the "big 5" would no longer be very big.  So, holiness and purity of life and living, and the very clear teaching of the Word concerning human sexuality and purity, integrity, stewardship, and what it means to really be a follower of Christ, were watered down in order to present a view of Christianity as something that we add on to our lives, and Christ becomes instead of Lord and King, a kind of heavenly helper who assists us in getting the life we want and feel we deserve.  The cross was for Christ, not for us.  All the sacrifice was by Him, and all the benefit is for us.  Again, I don't think we're always conscious of this, but it's the price we have to pay to keep the Big 5 front and center.
     In the Old Testament, the Father placed this crushing accusation against the priests and prophets of Israel.  He told them that "You have offered superficial treatments for my people's mortal wounds."  When I read those words, hear those words, everything about me as a minister comes under the scrutiny of His voice speaking them.  How much of what I offer is nothing more than superficial treatment.  How many of the mortal wounds of those He has given me to minister to remain untended, unhealed?
     I've a friend that says we have overemphasized the term "sheep" when speaking of those He has given us to feed and nurture.  Sheep are always dependent on the shepherd.  Without him, they cannot feed or survive.  All who first come to Him are sheep, but it has never been his intention that they remain so.  My friend says that the Father intends that sheep become His sons and his daughters.  Adult sons and daughters.  Adults do not have to depend on the shepherd for food.  They can find it themselves in the word and life of the Father.  This is the place that the shepherd must take every sheep the Father has given.  Yet the Big 5 is  a great obstacle for that really happening.
    I know this seems geared towards fellow pastors, but really it speaks to all of us, "sheep and shepherds" alike.  Shepherds must yearn to see their sheep become mature sons and daughters of the Father, and that same desire must be in the hearts of the sheep themselves.  To come to a place in Him where they are not dependent upon someone else feeding them, but know how to partake for themselves of the Bread and Water of Life.  His Life.  Desire.  Where does yours lie today?

Pastor O
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   May 2019   
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