Monday, September 28, 2009

Faithful or Successful: Shattering the Dichotomy, Part II

  imageYesterday I gave a report on Art Azurdia’s first presentation at the Spurgeon Fellowship at Western Seminary which was held a couple of weeks back. In spite of what some of my friends thought, it was not the Surgeon Fellowship (I am not a physician) nor was it the Sturgeon Fellowship (for my Columbia River-fishing friends)

Both of Art’s presentations were EXCELLENT and dealt with the topic of Faithfulness vs. Success in the proclamation of the Gospel.  Last time we looked at the divine aspect…that ultimately God, not we, are the determiner of whatever success we have. We are called to be faithful. 

HOWEVER… at the break, I ask Art, “So what does that do to job evaluations and personal accountability.”  He smiled and said, “Just wait until the second lecture.” 

And for the most part he was correct.  He MOSTLY answered my question.

Art’s thesis during the second lecture was: (my notes follow)

Can a called man(*), faithful to the gospel, be certain of success?

John 15:12-17 (esp. v. 16)

The preacher does not select his vocation. It is selected for him. –Will Houghton

The man whom Christ makes a fisher of men is successful. --Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Prayer is one half of a man’s ministry; and it gives to the other half all its power and success –Charles Bridges

Size in and of itself is not the sign of anything good or bad.

Can a called man, faithful to the gospel, be certain of success?

John 15:12-17: You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.

I. Considering the Context (…as I have loved you”)…

  • That phrase appears at the beginning and the end of this passage like parenthesis “inclusio”
    • v. 12: My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
    • v. 17-This is my command: Love each other.
  • Jesus: “ponder how you should love each other based on how I have loved you.”
  • Moral imperative based on a moral indicative.
  • The love of Jesus displays itself in
    • His death for them (v. 13: “to lay down his life for one’s friends.”)
    • His intimacy with them (v. 14-“you are my friends if you do what I command.”)
    • His appointment of them. (v. 15: I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.)
  • Lest they get pompous because of His love, he punctures their balloon—You didn’t choose me, I chose you.”

II. Narrowing the Focus

Can a called man, faithful to the gospel, be certain of success?

John 15:16: You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

Three truths:

1. Gospel ministers are sovereignly commissioned. (v. 16a-“you did not chose me, but I chose you”)

Don’t be afraid of this. (“You did not choose me [for yourself], but I chose you [for myself]”)-middle active.

  1. “Jesus found Philip” vs. “We have found him of whom Moses & the prophets spoke.” Was Philip a liar? No, he was speaking existentially.
  2. This is not the appointment of salvation, but the appointment of certain people to tasks of bearing fruit. An election FOR ministry/an election to GO.
    • Num 8-the appointment of the Levites
    • Jeremiah-before you were born, I knew you.
  3. We must not democratize the church.
    1. Jesus calls
    2. It does not mean that
    3. The plurality of elders is not the NT’s only word about church leadership. (My emphasis, not his)
    4. Gospel ministers are sovereignly commissioned.
    5. This appointment is not for indolence and ease, but for a task that is relentless, vicious & at times dangerous to their health.
    6. You have not chosen this work, but that God chose it for you.
    7. We have too many “self-sent” men: Self-centered entrepreneurialism.
    8. People in our congregations are thinking “Any boob can be a pastor”

2. Gospel ministers are commissioned to succeed (16b: “I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit & that your fruit should abide?”)

  1. What is the type of fruit referred to here?
    1. The fruit is the consequence of their going. Fruit that is borne of mission.
    2. It is the disciple-making process (not to be confused with the decision-making process).
  2. In this context WE WILL BEAR FRUIT.
  3. It is a LIE to say: “God hasn’t called you to be successful; God has called you to be faithful.”
    • Some people use it to excuse complacency.
    • The occupational hazard of the ministry is a broken heart.
  4. Faithful or successful is a false dichotomy; it is Faithful AND successful
  • (Is Peter dispassionate in Acts 2:38-39?)
  • The gospel is not an invitation; it is a summons.
  • To NOT do it is not to decline; it is to deny.
  1. What brings passion in preaching?
    • Passion is the fruit of a Word saturated life.
    • I expect something to happen when I preach.
    • That doesn’t mean that I can immediately see the results of each sermon.

3. Gospel ministers are successful through Prayer. (v. 16c: Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.)

  1. Culture sets your context, but it must never set your agenda.
  2. We must distinguish between the assembling of a mob from the salvation of the multitude. (“so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”)
  3. Praying IS YOUR JOB (If it was not part of your job description given to you by the church, it was part of your job description given to you by Christ).
  4. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (Luther: “a nothing does not mean a little something.”)
  5. How do we live in the tension between an evidence fruitlessness?
    • 1. Resist all attempts to measure success now.
      • You not possess the capacity to measure success accurately.
      • Your knowledge & motives are limited & stained.
    • 2. Rest your assurance of success on the promise of Jesus.
      • If you are a God-called man & are faithful to the Gospel, then fruit will be born of your ministry.
      • You may not see the fruit in your lifetime.
      • For now our assurance must rest not on what we see, but what Jesus said.



And so, in answer to my question about accountability and evaluation, it seems to me that Art’s answer would be that we are accountable for the execution of what we set out to do…but not necessarily to the immediate results.  If the supervisor/eldership/senior minister/whatever and the minister/staff person, whatever have agreed on the criteria for the execution of a plan, then the execution, not it’s immediate results are what is evaluatable. 

I am not positive that this is what he is saying.  I also have one more hesitation which I will lay out tomorrow.


(*)- The Spurgeon Fellowship premise is that only men can be called to Gospel ministry and so their language is always “men.”  Please don’t give me grief about it…I am only reporting, not advocating nor defending.

1 comment:

Michael Shepherd said...

"I like your notes and it gets my mind working. I'm anxious for part three/your hesitation..."Faithful or Successful: Return of the Jedi""

Visits Since Dec. 11, 2007