Failing or Faithful?

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by Joel Comiskey

Myth: If My Church Does Not Grow, I’m Not Successful

A dreadful disease has permeated cell church ministry. It’s called “Yonggi Cho envy” or “big church envy.” Cho is just the personification of what I’m referring to because his church is so large. Pastors and churches experience a lot of jockeying to have a larger church than the next guy. The result of this attitude is that many pastors feel like failures when their churches don’t grow.

Truth: Success Should be Measured by Faithful Effort, Rather than Results

Church growth generally teaches that God rewards workers who reap, rather than those who faithfully sow the seed. This is called “harvest theology.” Again, it downplays the Christian teaching that God rewards faithfulness and uplifts those pastors and churches who are experiencing growth. Because I was committed to this church growth thinking, I found myself pressured and pressuring others to produce.

Yes, we have to plant; we have to water; we have to do our part. Yet, ultimately, God must give the increase. When he does give the increase, we can rejoice in his supernatural blessing and goodness. If he doesn’t give the increase, we continue to be faithful, knowing that God honors our diligent effort and service.

We are successful in the process of being faithful. God asks us to make the very best effort possible under his guidance. As we are led by him, we are successful in the process of planting, discipling, and watering. We look to him for the increase, but we are successful whether we see the fruit or not.

I ministered in a cell church in the Midwest. The church was a model of cell church growth for a number of years, but then it stagnated. The founding pastor felt like he should be seeing growth each year and began to feel like a failure when the growth stopped. I was very impressed with the life and excitement in the church, but the pastor was discouraged. “I’m fed up,” he told me. “I’ve just lost interest. Maybe I should be doing something else.”

I preached in his church on Sunday and was encouraged by God’s work in the church. But once again the pastor began to condemn himself because the church wasn’t growing each year. He told me that he felt like a failure and that perhaps he should simply leave the church. I listened intently, but eventually I found myself saying, “Who brings the growth? You do many things well, but you have a problem in trusting God to bring growth in your church. You need to hang in there until it happens.” His wife, knowing I hit a raw nerve, encouraged him to listen closely.

Many pastors don’t hang in the saddle long enough. They don’t trust God’s sovereign hand to bring the growth and give the eventual victories. They leave too early.

Is there a time when God calls pastors and leaders to move on? Yes. However, moving on when feeling like a failure is not the best time to move. My counsel is to hang in there. God wants to reach lost souls and make disciples more than we do. Yet, leading a church is often more about what God wants to do in the life of the pastor. When the pastor has matured, the growth appears. Our job is to plant, water, and put in the best effort possible.

If you’d like purchase a normal copy of “Myths and Truths of the Cell Church” you can purchase a normal physical copy HERE or if you’d like a  PDF version of “Myths and Truths of the Cell Church,” click  HERE.

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Mito: No Soy Exitoso Si mi Iglesia no Crece

Una espantosa enfermedad se ha permeado dentro del ministerio celular. Se llama “envidia a Yonggi Cho” o “enva a la iglesia grande”. Cho es la personificación de lo que me refiero pues su iglesia es tan grande. Pastores e iglesias experimentan haciendo muchas maniobras para tener una iglesia más grande que la de su vecino. El resultado de esta actitud es que muchos pastores se sienten fracasados cuando sus iglesias no crecen.

Verdad: El Éxito Debe ser Medido por el Esfuerzo Fiel, y No por los Resultados

Generalmente el crecimiento de la iglesia enseña que Dios recompensa a los trabajadores que cosechan, más que a aquellos que fielmente siembran la semilla. A esto se le llama “Teologa de la cosecha”. Una vez más, se le resta importancia a la enseñanza cristiana de que Dios recompensa la fidelidad, y eleva a los pastores e iglesias que están experimentando un crecimiento.

S, tenemos que plantar; tenemos que regar; tenemos que hacer nuestra parte. Pero, al final, Dios debe dar el crecimiento. Cuando Él ciertamente da el crecimiento, podemos regocijarnos en su bendición y bondad sobrenatural. Si Él no da el crecimiento, nosotros debemos continuar siendo fieles, sabiendo que Dios honra nuestro esfuerzo diligente y nuestro servicio.

Somos exitosos en el proceso de ser fieles. Dios nos pide que hagamos nuestro mejor esfuerzo posible bajo su dirección. Al ser guiados por Él, tenemos éxito en el proceso de plantar, discipular, y regar. Y esperamos en Él por el crecimiento, pero somos exitosos ya sea que veamos o no el fruto.

Ministré en una iglesia de Medio-Oeste. La iglesia fue por muchos años un modelo de crecimiento de iglesia celular, pero luego se estancó. El pastor fundador senta que deba estar viendo crecimiento cada año, y comenzó a sentirse como un total fracaso cuando el crecimiento se detuvo. Yo estaba impresionado con la vida y la emoción que se viva en la iglesia, pero el pastor estaba desanimado. Me dijo “estoy hastiado”. Simplemente he perdido el interés. Tal vez debera estar haciendo otra cosa”.

Prediqué en su iglesia el da domingo y me animó ver el trabajo que Dios estaba haciendo en la iglesia. Pero una vez más el pastor comenzó a culparse porque que la iglesia no creca cada año. Me dijo que senta que era un fracaso y que quizá lo mejor era que dejara la iglesia. Lo escuché cuidadosamente pero finalmente empecé a decirle, “¿Quién da el crecimiento? Tú haces bien muchas cosas, pero tienes problemas confiando en que Dios traiga el crecimiento a tu iglesia. Tú tienes que seguir esperando hasta que suceda”.  Su esposa quien saba que haba tocado una fibra sensible, le animó a escuchar cuidadosamente.

Muchos pastores no se mantienen en la montura lo suficiente. No confan en la mano soberana de Dios para traer el crecimiento y para dar al final la victoria. Se retiran demasiado temprano.

¿Será que en algún momento Dios les puede pedir a los pastores y a los lderes que avancen hacia algo diferente? S, sin embargo avanzar cuando te sientes un fracaso no es el mejor momento para hacerlo. Mi consejo es que te mantengas all esperando. Dios quiere alcanzar a las almas perdidas y hacer discpulos más que nosotros mismos. Sin embargo, la conducción de una iglesia a menudo es más sobre lo que Dios quiere hacer en la vida de un pastor. El crecimiento aparece cuando el pastor ha madurado. Nuestra labor es plantar, regar, y ponerle el mayor empeño posible.

Si quieres comprar una copia fsica de “Mitos y Verdades de la Iglesia Celular” puedes hacerlo ACA. Si quieres una copia de ebook (PDF), puedes hacerlo ACA.

1 thought on “Failing or Faithful?

  • Good word Joel! God hasn’t called us to be successful (by the world’s definition), He’s called us to be faithful — full of faith.

    I recently had a man publicly attack me about my teaching that the goal of every church should be to make disciples of Christ who make disciples of Christ. In his attack he threatened to leave if I keep teaching this. I then showed him the door. He then did his phone calls and persuaded several others to leave with him. Yes, it stung but I agree with Bro. Stockstill — “We shouldn’t be as concerned about those who leave as we should be about those who need to leave but refuse to do so.”

    I consulted one of my mentors/accountability partners, Dr. Frankie Rainey, as I was going through this difficult experience and he provided me a link to a message he taught the students at the Canadian Seminary and Bible School using Hebrews chapter 11.

    In this Scripture, read a long list of faithful servants who “gained approval through their faith [yet] did not receive what was promised because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39-40)” Here’s the link to page containing Dr. Frankie Rainey’s message from Hebrews 11, concerning “faith”…

    http://www.parsonsuniverse.com/chapel/fall2012.htm

    The message I receive from this text is, I most likely will not realize the fulfillment of the vision God has given me (i.e.; establishing and teaching others how to establish authentic Christian communities) but I know, by remaining faithful to God’s purpose for my life, this vision will be realized in some future generation.

    And as for the man who publicly attacked me, I’ve come to agree with Dr. Charles Swindoll — “When people turn against you, and you are in the right, it’s like being kicked by a mule. Consider the source! You were kicked by a creature whose nature is to kick.”

    Sharing the Journey,
    Rick Diefenderfer
    Creating Christian Communities

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