A pushback on the pushback

I was a little puzzled by Paul Levy's gentle disagreement with Rick Phillip's strong disagreement with Tim Keller's assertion that our ministries ought to be measured by their fruitfulness. I think I understand why Paul is not interested in the old school/new school divide within the American reformed tradition. I assume those categories have little or no usefulness in Europe. However, in America those distinctions are important. I do believe they are more important to some than they ought to be. However, what Rick states about the oft leftward trajectory of new school advocates is historically verifiable. So I understand Rick's concern.

The focus on measuring our ministries by their fruitfulness rather than faithfulness too easily becomes a troubling step toward the sorts of manipulative techniques that we see in many churches. It's sort of like listening to Elton John. Before long you will be listening to Phil Collins and maybe even Air Supply. It's a slippery slope my friends.

Do I believe Tim Keller would ever endorse the sorts of things I linked to above? I can't imagine he would. However, I know what it is like to be a youth pastor on staff of a mega-church and to be held accountable for results. It was a nightmare. But beyond the practical concerns I have about the results treadmill is the clear teaching of the Apostle Paul that our job is planting and watering. God makes things grow. In the end we will answer for our faithfulness not the results of our ministries which, I hope we all agree, are the fruit of God's merciful action.

Should we pay attention to the fruitfulness of our ministries? Absolutely. Should we seek more converts to Christ, greater power in the pulpit, and greater Christlikeness in our churches? We must! It's just that none of us can bring those things about. We cannot dictate or otherwise manage those things into being.

Perhaps we are talking past each other. I am quite sure that Rick has a deep desire for his ministry to be fruitful, as does Paul, as do I. We ought to all care a great deal about the fruitfulness of our ministries. We ought to pray fervently for fruitfulness. It is clear that Jesus cares about fruitfulness. But a preoccupation on our part with fruitfulness can easily lead our hearts down a dangerous path. I would rather rest in the Apostle's assurance that the fruitfulness of my labors is the Lord's doing. It is for me to be faithful. For that I and every other minister will incur a stricter judgment.