YOU ARE THE KEEPER OF YOUR VINEYARDS
Song of Solomon 1:6, “…they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.”
A national ministry was not to be found any where on my radar screen when I first started in the ministry 44 years ago. In fact, I never dreamed of ever having a ministry beyond the church I pastored. God often has a way of opening doors nationally even as he extends his blessing locally.
As I reflect back on the little influence God gave me I think of men whose ministries expanded nationwide and even worldwide. The men with the greatest influence were not men who sought to have one. They merely stayed faithful in their local ministry longer than others. The result was growth both spiritually and numerically.
The largest churches in the 60’s and 70’s were those that worked patiently their own fields. They stayed when others left. They kept reaching the lost in their area when others became complacent. It has been said, “The deeper the tap root the stronger and taller the tree.” Transplanting trees stunt their growth. The same is true of men of God and their ministries.
For some reason God chose to give me some national influence and I want to share some thoughts I have regarding this thought.
1. Avoid a National Ministry Mentality. Men often start national ministries or national conferences before they are ready to do so. If God is blessing in an unusual way and others are asking for help in that area, then be willing to help them. If the interest grows then adjust for that, but it is a mistake to attempt to use a national conference to build your local church. You will hurt your people. Build something first and let them come to you rather than you going to them.
We started our Soul Winning Clinic at the request of one pastor from Louisiana. Dr. Jack Hyles started Pastors’ School because the demand was overwhelming of pastors wanting to learn what God had taught him. There are “national” conferences being conducted all over the country hosted by churches that probably are not really ready and with pastors who are not yet proven. Be careful not to fall into that trap.
2. The More Visible The Ministry, The More Care Should Be Taken. Highly visible pastors who host a conference cannot and should not be flippant with that influence. Sometimes influence, which can be good, can also be bad. Remember that “Might does not make right.” Great men are not always wise men.
Much care should be taken by delegates who attend conferences to use Biblical discernment to spot and avoid error of direction as well as doctrine. Just because a man has a great ministry numerically does not mean he is great in his teaching or methodology. I would rather hear average Christians singing old fashioned hymns in a church choir than a praise and worship team. If they start using colored lights with the singing RUN!
Dr. Jack Hyles not only had quantity, he had quality of message and method. God magnified men of God in the Scriptures and certainly has done the same in days past. Those magnified by man are certainly different from those magnified by God. The salvation of souls is in the final analysis the mark of the hand of God not beautiful buildings or big ministries.
Every time a preacher calls me for advice, I ask God to give me wisdom. It is an awesome responsibility to advise those who are in a position of authority in another church. The more visible you become the more accountable you become. Do not go beyond your influence and never misuse the influence God has given. Be careful who you promote as well. Direction is more important than distance.
3. No One Can Buy Their Way Out Of Winning Souls At Home With Missions Giving. Many church members give tithes and offerings with out personally going soul winning, convincing themselves they are getting the Gospel out. It helps in getting the Gospel out, but it is no substitute for personal soul winning. We are to do both.
I love the oft quoted statement of Dr. Lee Roberson of “The light that shines brightest at home shines furthest from home.” Dr. Roberson loved missionaries and would give the entire Sunday night offering to missions. However, he baptized 1,000 converts annually. He led his church to do “both.”
It seems in our day some are attempting to buy their way out of winning souls at home with a heavy missions emphasis. We are not fooling God. Acts 1:8 uses the word “both.” When the baptismal waters are not stirred at the home church yet thousands of dollars go to the foreign fields we are deceiving ourselves. We best stop and push the red reset button at home. We are lulling ourselves into a spiritual nap with this mindset. The horror is that eventually this will result in a future weak missions emphasis and cause those on foreign soil to go to Hell.
4. Critics Will Always Be With Us, So Take Advantage of Them. When God blesses your ministry, the critics will come out of the woodwork. Evangelist B. R. Lakin once told me, “If they are nippin’ at your heels, all it means is that you have the lead on them.”
Critics, however, will invariably have something to say that God will use to help you. The critics will never accomplish anything in life because of their critical nature, but God will use them for good in your life. If God could use evil Nebuchadnezzar, and call him a servant, then God can also use your critics to help you. If you will guard your spirit, your critics can actually help you face an imperfection in your life and ministry. Stay optimistic, but allow your mistakes to make you better.
5. Do Not Mistake Meekness For Weakness. Try not to fight. If error begins to infiltrate the church you pastor, then two decisions have been made for you: what to fight and where to fight. The only decision left to be made is when to fight. Believe me, timing can make or break you. Too many pastors look for a fight and end up down in the dumps. Keep doing the main thing of reaching souls and building their people.
The great men of God that I knew personally were all meek, but none of them were weak. Never mistake meekness for weakness. Brother Hyles was a meek man. He feared God. He walked with God. He prayed twenty hours a week. On the other hand he was far from being a weak man. He did not go looking for a fight, but he was willing to fight when it was necessary.
When the fight comes your way and the decision is made, make sure there is a decision-making process. Many times I have sat down and put on paper my decision to fight. Then, I put it in my top drawer of my desk and let it simmer. Often, a few days later I would pull it out, read it and then tear it up. I never rushed into a fight. I exhort you to be slow to fight, but never be afraid to fight when it is necessary.
6. Do Not Let Personality, Friendship, Or Bigness Blind You To Truth. Truth is supreme. Friendship that overwhelms truth is deadly. Truth must always be supreme over friendship. Many men do not focus on teaching the truth as the vehicle to expose the error. If we spend too much time attacking the messenger, we will lose sight of the message. In addition, people tend to rally to the attacked messenger and lose sight of the main problem which is the infectious error. Always stand behind truth no matter who it is from whom you must separate.
7. Do Not Cower Because Your Ministry Is Not As Big As Another. Never believe you are inadequate because your ministry is not as big as another ministry, or your influence is smaller. You are just as much God’s man as the man who pastors thousands. Your church is also an espoused bride. You will answer to God, not to another man of God. God will not compare your work with another man’s work. He will hold you accountable for what he wanted you to do. You will be rewarded for your “labor” not the “harvest.”
Fight the good fight in your own ministry through soul winning and the building of Sunday schools. Do not allow your ministry to drag you own. Run from the mob mentality and be on guard to that which could potentially hurt your ministry. Above all, learn from the past in order to build a better future.