Pragmatic or Spiritual

reprinting this article by Jamin Goggin

Pragmatic or Spiritual

"'I think I could train a non-Christian to do what I do well.'  These were the words spoken by a successful pastor.  Of course, "successful" is a loaded word, which I am defining via the largely accepted standards of the evangelical church today-growing church attendance, establishment of satellite campuses, creative programming, etc.  Having seriously reflected on the source, nature and telos of his ministry he had concluded that in many ways his ministry was natural, fill in the blank.  In short, his ministry was pragmatically oriented and fundamentally a human endeavor.  He had become suspicious that the markers of success might be skewed since such success was achieved primarily through his natural ability, charisma, neurotic drives...

What I am finding more and more, and I must say at an alarming rate, is that this is true of many in ministry.  What is perhaps of greater concern is that few (very few) are coming to the realization that this pastor has come to.  Few, having tasted the meat sacrificed to idols have chosen to step away from the sweet taste of power, prestige and success long enough to realize maybe they are dining at the wrong table.

What we see is ministry fundamentally driven by pragmatic questions that are met with pragmatic answers.  What do we need to do to get people in church more often?  What do we need to do to increase giving?  What do we need to do to increase membership?  What do we need to do to get people excited about church?  And so, the answers follow.  It is those who can think creatively, see the "big picture", understand people's felt needs or come up with a clever campaign that are seen as brilliant and successful.  Mind you, within each of these pragmatic questions there may lie legitimate concerns, but might I suggest that the questions are neither primary nor formed correctly.  The concerns of the pastor are no longer spiritual.  The questions that should be primary are not even secondary.  How is the Holy Spirit moving in the lives of these people?  Where does God have our church developmentally?  What temptations do we as leadership have in our approach to ministry?  The problem is that these are questions to be explored in prayer, and if we are honest much less time (perhaps no time) is spent in prayer than in planning meetings, vision team brainstorms, the latest conferences, etc.

Sure, we talk about spiritual things, but not spiritually.  We do not minister in the Spirit, but in human creativity, in the latest church growth ideas, etc.  Here we would do well to hear voices like Eugene Peterson who call the pastor back to a life of prayer (see Working the Angles).  Instead, we are enamored with the guys we believe have arrived (meaning those who have large churches), and their ideas for strategic growth, philosophies of ministry, etc.  Please hear me when I say, this is not all bad.  The pragmatic is an inescapable part of ministry, for we have to do something, and it would certainly be a good idea to do it well.  However, I believe if our ministry was more governed by spiritual questions and answers we would find that we don't have to do as much as we think we do, we are not responsible for the things we think we are (namely, the work of the Holy Spirit) and if we began with such spiritual questions and answers the pragmatic step to follow might just be to glorify God, not man. " Jamin Goggin

Seems the questions we ask reveal our motivation... what questions are you asking re: your ministries - whether it be to your family, church, small group etc? What important spiritual questions do you ask yourself re: your ministry?