Why Some Christian Ministries Fall?
by Joyce Reba Payne
The bible tells us that Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” He gives His disciples peace that the world cannot understand with a promise never to leave nor forsake them. This same God who walked with Enoch as he stepped into eternity, gave a barren woman a child, led Moses across the Red Sea on dry ground and took Elijah to heaven in a chariot of fire is the same God we worship today. Some families have had a heritage of ministry spanning over several generations. So why do we see ministries falling today at an alarming rate? They are not just falling because of promiscuity and that would be devastating enough. But some ministers are falling because of giving up on faith in God. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb11:6). In order to please God the minister must continue to believe that God exists, which is faith. The Christian walk is to be one by faith, rather than sight. These are some basic principles that we would expect every minister of the gospel to believe. But hold on, not so. From the early prairie days of our nation, there were some preachers who preached but did not really believe in God. There were faith healers that sold oils or some kind of magical elixir promising a cure for “whatever ails you.” The seller had to be persuasive and the buyer had to be gullible enough to believe the tale told by the seller. And when people do not know any better, this process works out pretty good for the seller.
Imitation vs. the Real
Religious knowledge has grown since those early days when bible reading was not so readily available to everyone. We have the word preached today in storefronts as well as in mega churches. Everyone can get some kind of bible teaching or spiritual message by electronics or in person. What has changed though is the expectation from ministry. Everyone that participates expects some type of benefit but the expectation may differ from person to person. People used to believe that if they went to church and did what was right, God would bless them at the end of their life with eternity in heaven. The preacher who loved God preached to win souls for the kingdom. Today both church members and preachers have various motives for participation in ministry. And even though God promises a reward to those that serve Him, those blessings do not always come as soon as one desires or in the way expected. Today is a day when everyone wants a quick fix, even though God is not moved by our time schedule. Some preachers are motivated by the financial benefit derived from ministry and may not be prepared for the difficulties that ministry will invariably bring. These ministers do not have a right heart toward God but seek ministry for their own selfish desires. None of these things are new because Jesus foretold that hirelings would come to deceive the sheep and the apostles taught about the dangers of false prophets and teachers in the church.
Heart of the Servant
My subject, though, is not about those that are deliberate deceivers, but rather those that started out believing and lost faith nevertheless. Jesus explained in Mark Chapter 4 how the sower sows seed in the ground and that different types of harvest would be produced. Not all the seeds would survive because some would be sown in inferior soil. Jesus explained to His close disciples that the seeds mentioned represent the Word of God and the ground represents the hearts of the people. The enemy would come to steal the word out of the hearer’s heart. He explained that the value the hearer applied to the preached word represented the type of ground the word is sown in and would determine its ability to sustain the believer. Those who valued and cultivated the word received would be more fruitful in the vineyard for the Father.
People hear the Word of God and it is they who determine how much fruit will be produced. Some people will have a good heart and cultivate the word, making good use of it and possibly go on to do a great ministry work. Their seeds may produce fruit up to the hundredfold return. But those that do not value the word nor have a proper heart toward it may not keep it long enough to produce any fruit. Nevertheless, harvest time always comes. Not all seeds will produce and not all fruit produced will have the same value. But good seeds put in good ground and nurtured produce matured fruits brought forth in the right season.
Let’s look at how the word is being received today, not by the congregation but by the preacher who ministers in the word. Preachers receive their ministry training in various ways. Some are trained at bible school and the quality of the ministry can be attributed to the quality of the school. Some ministers are prepared for ministry by the pastor and church that they were raised up in and will have a ministry style based on that example. And then there are some ministers who arrive at their faith through an experience with God and are led in His service. The first two examples may produce large ministries but the best example is the third one where a minister derives his faith through an experience with God. We see this example in Moses, Abraham, David and Paul. These spiritual giants were men greatly affected by their initial experience with God and who then partnered with Him to do a work that went beyond their lifetime. This type of minister may go on to pursue biblical training or church mentoring as well, but the significant difference would be the origin of his faith or ministry motivation. Jesus said: “I thank you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hid these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them to babes”(Mt11:25).
Authenticity of the Message
The bible message is about 6,000 years old and it has been handed down from past generations to our generation. The early believers shared the message by word of mouth and parchment until finally recorded in bible form. Forty authors wrote 66 books of the bible that all stand in agreement, verifying the accuracy of the written text. King James went on to make the bible available for everyone through the first printed English version in 1611. But even though the word is available now for everyone to read, there are still ministers who base their ministry on what they have heard rather than receiving messages through reading the word and intimacy with God. Unlike the early saints who retained the purity of the word, today's handed down gospel is less likely to retain accuracy. So some churches are preaching tradition rather than the inerrant Word of God. You have probably heard this message: “And the bible said in the end time, you won’t be able to tell summer from winter.” However, that is not bible truth, but church tradition. Some ministers may be thoroughly trained bible scholars that minister what they were taught by their college professors; but those instructors may not have actually been believers in Christ. “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty”(1Co 1:26-27). Those that God has called, He works in to deliver an accurate message from the word by the Spirit. When you consider the various methods of ministry preparation, it becomes easier to understand why even the preacher who delivers the word may not be sustained by it. But the good seed of the word sown in a good heart can produce strong believers and ministers with strong faith in the Lord.
When we examine the word of God, we find that it does not impose upon us a responsibility to believe everything preached. Rather we are given spiritual discernment, instructed to try the spirit, search the word like the saints of Berea to see if it is so, and study to show ourselves approved of God (1Jn 4:1) Our faith is developed through hearing the true Word of God and putting our trust in God. Through our faith we are sustained by God, Who will carry us through every trial of our faith. God expects us to put our faith in Him and the Word of God, not in the strength of the preacher. The preachers may err or drop out of the race but God is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2; Psa 55:22). Then God goes on further to lead and guide the believer into a relationship with Him built on that foundation of trust. Christ instructs, warns and prepares His servant for the test and trials that will be encountered. He has promised to be with the servant even if he falls or when God's presence cannot be seen or felt. There is a promise of forgiveness and assurance in that God cannot lie (Heb 6:18). In difficult times, one must resist doubt, put on faith, believe the Word of God and hope in His promises. Faith can sustain the believer in those difficult days when there is no visible proof. That is why the minister must have a strong foundation to sustain him through the storms. He will not be sustained by his education, the accolades of the people or the size of his church facility. It must be on faith in God’s word.
God used a large portion of the bible text to give examples of faith to illustrate the importance of holding on regardless of what happens. Remember Job. The Hebrew boys had no evidence of victory before the fiery furnace but yet believed. Abraham had no evidence that he could have an heir but yet believed. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb 11:1). Jesus stated that faith the size of a mustard seed could move a mountain. It is always too early to give up. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it (1Co 10:13).” Christians must maintain a faithful heart trusting in God at all times. Difficult times are when we reinforce our faith through the Word of God, in prayer and anointed preaching. It is the responsibility of the believer to keep the word before his eyes because it is his life. Jesus said: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me (Joh 15:4).” Ministry not built on a solid foundation will not stand. The minister must be first of all, like any believer, trusting in the Lord and sustained by faith. For without faith, it is impossible to please God. Until Christ comes back the child of God must believe that God is and that He is “…able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy… (Jud 1:24).” ▉
Copyrighted by Joyce Reba Payne, 2013. All rights reserved.