Ministry success is a challenging topic at best. Some would even call it an oxymoron.
Others tell us it’s a completely wrong way to think about following and fulfilling your calling.
You have likely heard a teacher, mentor, or “expert” say something like this: “God has not called you to be successful (insert: “growing a bigger church”). He’s called you to be faithful.”
That’s a good thought, I guess, but I’ve noticed something about it: the devil has seemingly managed to make sure I always hear that statement from someone I perceive to be more successful in ministry than I am.
The devil is a master at manufacturing discouragement from the very places and people from whom we are seeking a fresh word of inspiration in the Spirit. Be alert to the backhanded way the devil wants to beat you down right when you least need it.
Famous conversions to Christianity
I’ve read several accounts of famous conversions. You’ve heard the stories too.
There’s the story of Martin Luther getting caught in a thunderstorm as a young teenager, like the one I drove through last night getting home. Apparently, a bolt of lightning brought young Luther to his knees in recognition of the awesome power of God.
Then there was the young Billy Graham who responded to the powerful revival preaching of Mordecai Ham.
Others are significant if less dramatic. D. L. Moody was converted to Christ when he was a shoe salesman through the witness and testimony of his Sunday School teacher, Edward Kimball.
I also reviewed the stories of John and Charles Wesley. In the early 1700s, the brothers participated in a mission trip to what is now the state of Georgia. The trip’s purpose was to share the gospel with the native Indians. After the trip, the brothers felt it was a failure, in large part because they both sensed that neither of them were actually believers.
Soon after, however, John wrote of his coming to faith that the Spirit of God “chased away the darkness of my unbelief.”
That’s a good picture.
The conversion of Charles is more familiar to many preachers.
Charles wrote in his journal, “In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society (Bible study) in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed.”
The recent movie about C. S. Lewis called The Most Reluctant Convert tells simply how Lewis came to faith on the way to the zoo with his brother after a long struggle with doubts.
One I missed until recently was the salvation experience of Charles Spurgeon.
The conversion of Charles Spurgeon
Every evangelical preacher, and especially Baptists, gets measured in some way against the “prince of preachers.”
I was so taken by Spurgeon stories that I visited his church in London several years ago. That experience was disappointing because the building Spurgeon helped build had been largely destroyed in World War II.
Spurgeon shared his testimony, or parts of it, hundreds of times in his sermons. As a rebellious teenager, he found himself one night caught in a blizzard. He sought shelter from the storm in a Primitive Methodist church. An unnamed and still unknown lay preacher was trying to share from Isaiah 45:22: “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.”
Spurgeon later wrote, “He had not much to say, thank God, for that compelled him to keep on repeating his text, and there was nothing needed—by me, at any rate except his text. Then, stopping, he pointed to where I was sitting under the gallery, and he said, ‘That young man there looks very miserable’ … and he shouted, as I think only a Primitive Methodist can, ‘Look! Look, young man! Look now!’ … Then I had this vision—not a vision to my eyes, but to my heart. I saw what a Savior Christ was.… Now I can never tell you how it was, but I no sooner saw whom I was to believe than I also understood what it was to believe, and I did believe in one moment.
“And as the snow fell on my road home from the little house of prayer I thought every snowflake talked with me and told of the pardon I had found, for I was white as the driven snow through the grace of God.”
Can you imagine the “prince of Baptist preachers” being in heaven because of an unnamed Methodist who couldn’t preach his way out of a wet paper bag?
Does God have a sense of humor or what?
I pray that the unnamed lay preacher felt meaning, contentment, and joy as he preached in that snowstorm and to Spurgeon.
I pray that you feel the same, whether you are preaching these days in a storm or in bright Easter sunshine!
So yes, be faithful with what God gives you this week.