During the For The Church Conference, held at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO; Mark Dever made the statement “we can’t make ourselves revitalizers.” (click here to watch video)
For over a decade, I had plans and intentions to see certain actions take place under my leadership in ministry. I read books, took classes, sought degrees, and prayed earnestly for growth to occur. All the while God was answering my prayer for growth, He was working in my heart, and I was looking in the wrong place.
My desire was to see salvations, numbers, and reputations grow. I hoped my reputation would grow with the reputation of the church. (That small distinction was how I hid my pride in my prayer life.) God caused immense growth in my life through my prayers (and struggles) that sent me in a different direction. Dever’s comments mentioned above reminded me of the work God has done in my life. 1 Corinthians 3 has played a significant role in my journey as a pastor. 1 Corinthians 3:7 says, “7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”
I hope and pray that many churches experience revitalization and renewal. I believe that it is what God wants. I also believe that God has been working and growing the church in America in different ways. There is a danger in viewing the previous leadership and history of the church as a negative, and the revitalization rhetoric of today walks a fine line between encouraging the revitalization pastor and diminishing the ones who have come before. The danger is the sin of pride.
If what Paul says is true, and I believe it is since it’s the Bible, then no one pastor should ever take the credit for the work happening in the church. The growth of the church is not in the hands of the pastor. According to Scripture, pastors are not anything at all. God is the only someone who matters when it comes to the growth of a church.
In my years of praying and seeking to be someone, God taught me a great deal. My prayers these days are for strength and grace to stay faithful to the task assigned to me. My hope is to shepherd alongside the other pastors of our church to the best of our ability. Church growth is connected to the person and work of Christ. Church growth springs forth from the faithful preaching of His Word. Church growth is the result of God’s grace and work, not the personalities, job descriptions, or intentions of it preachers.