No Magic Bullet

It seems there is an ever-growing expectation that achieving success in ministry is the result of finding the right methodology or formula that will ensure congregational growth. I have colleagues in ministry who repeatedly, it seems, look for the next article, blog post, social media thread or conference opportunity that will provide the quickest and most straight-forward strategy, guaranteed to generate success.

My response?  There is no such thing as a magic bullet.  “Magic Bullet” is a term often used in the field of medicine.  It describes the action of a medication which, when administered properly, attacks a specific concern on a cellular level to bring about the desired effect.

In local church life, there is no such thing.  Each congregation is different than the next – different people, different history, different community, and different needs.  What works well in one place, may or may not work in another.

In addition to those who look for a magic bullet, some of those same colleagues seem to have very little patience.  Many conclude that if certain thresholds in such things as attendance, baptisms, and offerings are not met by a specific time, then something is wrong – either with their leadership, or more likely, with the congregation.

A few months ago, another colleague in ministry said something that has stuck with me.  He said, “We tend to over-estimate what we can accomplish in one year, and under-estimate what we can accomplish in five years.”

This phrase reminded me of God’s affirmation of His commitment to give Moses and the people the land that was promised to Abraham.  In Exodus chapter 23, the angel recounts how God would go before them and drive out the enemies, but he was not going to do it all at once.  “But I will not drive them out in a single year,” verse 29 begins, “because the land would become desolate and the wild animals will be too numerous for you.”  “Little by little,” the angel said on behalf of God, “I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.”  (Exodus 23:29-30)

Success in ministry is not about finding a “magic bullet.”  It’s about developing relationships, engendering trust and building consensus.  Pay attention to these, and see what God can accomplish through you in five years.