[b]the greatest churches in America[/b]
[i]by David Ravenhill[/i]
How many are you running these days? or How many do you have? are frequently asked questions among ministry leaders. As the numbers are disclosed, the pecking order is established. The pastor with the largest congregation is indisputably the top gun while those with fewer numbers take their respective positions on the failure-to-success continuum.
Why is it that whenever the secular or spiritual media rate The Greatest Churches in America, the one overriding criteria for measuring success is membership numbers. Weve become mesmerized by crowds rather than character.
Speaking of numbers, just this morning I was meditating on what the Lord said to Ezekiel. (Ezekiel 44) God told him that there were two classes of ministry. One class was refused access before Him and thus relegated to ministry to the people only. The second group of ministers/priests was chosen by the Lord for His own personal satisfaction. They alone had access into His inner court. God spoke to Ezekiel saying they shall come near to ME, to minister to ME and they shall stand before ME, to offer to ME the fat and the blood declares the Lord.
Let us make a clear distinction between these two groups. The ministry of one was public; the other private. One ministered to the crowd, the other to Christ. One group was seen, the other unseen. One had the approval of men, the other the approval of God. All of which begs the question, which had the superior calling? According to todays standard, those with the largest following would be the clear winners. After all, they have numbers on their sideand numbers are a sure sign of ministerial success, right? Wrong!
Is it possible that even today God still sees two groups of ministers? Does He still retain some for His own personal enjoyment, those invited into the inner court, while others are relegated to the lesser position of ministering to the crowds in the outer court?
One further thought: why were two categories of leaders established in the first place? The Lord revealed to Ezekiel that one group had permitted mixture to infiltrate the camp, thereby polluting His sanctuary. This act of compromise, along with gluttonous idolatry, penalized them from access before the Lord.
I see striking parallels between those in Ezekiels day and those in ministry today. Many have adopted a seeker-sensitive approach to ministry because, frankly, it draws the crowds. Sin is seldom mentioned; as for sanctification, it is an unknown word to many believers. God forbid that we should offend someone by telling them to repent and live a holy life. The end result is that many, like those priests of old, have allowed the uncircumcised to enter the house of the Lord. Those who draw the largest crowds, are too often most susceptible to the pressure to patronize the people by tickling their ears.
Someone has said The one thing we learn from history is that we dont learn from history. Success is not determined by how many people you minister to, but whether or not we, corporately, minister to Him. How successful are you?
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon