Personal Holiness and Effectiveness in the Pulpit

These are my thoughts after a recent discussion in a homiletics lab. Hear me out before you dismiss me.

There is no one-to-one correspondence between personal holiness and effectiveness in the pulpit. After all, actors (and con artists) pretend to be people they are not all the time.

Likewise, there is no direct connection between personal holiness and the size of one’s church. I have known men who grew large churches (in one case, a cynic might call it an empire) who later turned out to have been indulging in the most gross, heinous, and vile sins for years and years. I have also known devout, godly men who ministered in near poverty serving small churches (in some cases, ungrateful churches who treated them like hired men).

Sometimes it pleases God for whatever reason to grow a certain church in a certain place at a certain time, for his glory, not ours.

The basis on which a servant will be judged is his faithfulness to what God has given him (Matt. 24:45-51; 1 Cor. 4:2; Rev. 2:10). Not how big or how little his church is.

Why then be holy?

You should be holy because God commands it (Lev. 11:44; 1 Pet. 1:15-16) and because you will be judged one day by the One who demands it (Rom. 14:12; 2 Cor. 5:10) and who is himself holy (Exod. 15:11; Lev. 19:2; 20:26; 21:8; Ps. 22:3; 99:9; Isa. 6:3).

And that is reason enough.

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About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
This entry was posted in Holiness, Pastoral Ministry, preaching. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Personal Holiness and Effectiveness in the Pulpit

  1. Autumn says:

    This is a very interesting argument. I would argue that the inverse is true also. Big churches, holy pastors. Little churches, un holy pastors. I am not implying that you are un-holy. Just the inverse of your argument. Why do you blog so much about the size of churches? What is the problem of a large church? Can’t small churches and large churches just get along?However, is holiness the same as effectiveness of a pastor? Or any other vocation, too. Also, the pastor is not the end all, be all to the success of a church. At the end of the day, isn’t success of the church measured in the spiritual health of its members? In my opinion, a successful church makes a noticeable impact in the community. Holiness is important, but the greatest attribute of a Christian is LOVE, according to Jesus. I think you need to ask if your blog demonstrates this love? To be fair, all christians, must ask this of ourselves.I am enjoying speaking to such an intelligent person. I am looking forward to your response. I feel as if this is a Christian version of the Screwtape letters. Ha-Ha.

  2. Autumn:I don’t deny that the inverse is true; but that wasn’t the point of the post.I have no problem with large churches; I was a member of one for twelve years.I do have a problem with the mentality of many who think that large = better (or more holy or more faithful, etc.)To answer your question “is holiness the same as effectiveness of a pastor?” I can only respond by asking you simply to read the post since that was the whole point.You create a false dichotomy when you set love up against holiness. It is clear that you do so simply to determine that your pet virtue is better than the other. When Jesus and Paul call for Christians to love, they do not call them to love at the expense of holiness. In addition, When God demands to be worshiped (OT and NT) he demands to be worshiped in the beauty of his holiness, (not the beauty of his love). Likewise, the call to holiness is predicated upon God’s own holiness.Part of holiness is obeying Christ’s commands and when Jesus speaks of loving him, he explains that loving him is keeping his commandments (e.g., John 14:15).As far as the pastor not being the be all and end all of the church, this statement makes it sound like you have little appreciation for the work of the pastor.I agree that the success of the church is measured by the spiritual health of its members and that something of great concern to me (and part of the reason why I blog) and part of the focus of my ministry. Remember, though, that the spiritual health of the church is due in part to the faithful ministry of the Word in the church, which is the pastor’s responsibility.This is part of the problem that is common in Christianity today: the largeness of a church is often seen as a marker of its spiritual health, when, as you admit, that is not the case. (I admit that the smallness of a church isn’t either, but that’s not a source of confusion for most people.)As far as my blog is concerned, it speaks the truth in love just as Paul called us to do and as Jesus demonstrated when he railed against the Pharisees.I’m not quite sure what you mean by your last paragraph since it is almost impossible to measure tone in a written document. Is that sarcasm?

  3. Autumn says:

    Let me address some of your points:”I don’t deny that the inverse is true; but that wasn’t the point of the post.” I reread the post again, I can’t really say what the point of the blog is? Not sure if that is the fault of the reader or the writer.To answer your question “is holiness the same as effectiveness of a pastor?” I can only respond by asking you simply to read the post since that was the whole point.I reread agagin, and I still do not understand the point.As far as the pastor not being the be all and end all of the church, this statement makes it sound like you have little appreciation for the work of the pastor.I do not know where you get that idea. To clarify, all members of the church have different parts. Part of the job of the church is to help others use their gifts.I am enjoying speaking to such an intelligent person. I am looking forward to your response. I feel as if this is a Christian version of the Screwtape letters. Ha-Ha.THere is no sarcasm here. It is obvious that you are intelligent. However, some of your blog is very hard to understand. Have you read the screwtape letters?

  4. Autumn:I have read the Screwtape Letters. Maybe I’m just not making the connection.My point was that holiness is not some magical key that unlocks the secret to effectiveness in pastoral ministry or in the pulpit. It is important; but some guys experience “success” by a worldly standard apart from it.Note I wrote “There is no one-to-one correspondence between personal holiness and effectiveness in the pulpit” which closes the question left open in the title. That was my point.While no one is excused from service to the Lord or his church, (and neither the pastor nor the members should be lazy) ultimately, church growth is in the hand of the Lord. A pastor will not be judged by how large or small his church is (was) but by how faithfully he executed his ministry (1 Cor. 4:2).I now see your point about each member playing its part and I agree. I must add, however, that the church’s ability (and even concern) to help people serve must flow from the right understanding of the Word and Christ. And that begins (though not necessarily ends) with the pulpit.Thanks for the reassurance that there was no sarcasm. I enjoy a healthy discussion but find that there’s little point if the other person is just messing around. That’s the only reason I asked.Thanks for reading and interacting. By the way, I tried to view your profile but you have it blocked? Have we met?

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