Over the last 15 years I have gone through many variations of personal fitness goals. As I look back at the years and the goals I can see a common thread: I stick with what works and get frustrated with what does not seem to work.
I suppose there is nothing wrong with this; if we are not meeting the clearly defined goals then the process or technique should be reevaluated. At the same time, sometimes it requires a little more time and patience in order to see goals met. Smaller, incremental goals are quite helpful in evaluating the overall progress.
This tendency to get discouraged and chuck the process creeps into my ministry thinking also. I tend to want results over-night. I want people, particularly guys, to make the jump to light-speed after a short period. But it usually doesn’t work like this. We can’t microwave people into maturity. They need to be marinated and often slow-roasted in the truth. After all, Jesus used the mustard seed to talk about the kingdom advancement. I’m not a botanist but I know enough to know that you don’t throw a seed in the ground and then take a nap and then “presto” a redwood is growing out of nowhere. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes persistence.
This reminder gives me encouragement amid the course. Keep operating within the game-plan (biblical ministry) and God will grow his people. I can of course looks for signs that point to growth, some cracks in the ground, but I can’t get discouraged when it takes time.
Let me give you an example. This past week I have heard a number of stories of different guys who have articulated a great awakening of love for Christ in their life. These men are Christians but God is working in their lives to bring gospel-renewal. He is opening their eyes to see and savor the glory of Christ. How do I process this? I should be coming out of my chair with excitement!! It is a crack in the soil. There is growth!! Life is happening. God is working in and through people to bring gospel growth. It make take time (and it will) but it is the process of gospel growth.
Pastors in particular need to not approach discipleship like they approach their fitness goals. We need to get convinced of the foundation (doctrine) and the vehicle (ministry) and then work patiently, faithfully, prayerfully, and skillfully at pastoral ministry. This type of reminder helps to renew my mind in the truth (Rom. 12.1-2). I hope it does you as well.