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FIRST-PERSON: My ministry ‘failure’

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (BP) — I have begun to sort through my books, give away materials collected over the years and empty out files in view of my retirement in the next few years.

I came across a file from back in the late 1970s when I served as a “mission pastor” in Northern California while attending Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif. (now Gateway Seminary in Ontario, Calif.).

At the time, we were called mission pastors rather than church planters. After two years of hard work, our ministry there ended when our core group disintegrated in a matter of days and our sponsoring church decided to shut down the work.

We left town broken and defeated.

Fortunately, I had the sense to write a thorough summary of what we did accomplish, which was in my mission pastor file.

I have carried the guilt of that ministry “failure” in my heart and mind for 40-plus years. What did we do wrong? How could we have done things differently? Did we walk in the Spirit of God or in the flesh?

Reading the summary, I was shocked at what I had written.

In two years, we discipled over 60 people and led 75 to Christ. What seemed like a huge failure had been an incredible evangelistic success. Having led most of the 75 people to the Lord, I do not think I’ve led that many people to Christ in such a short period at any other time in my life. It is true that we were not able to establish a lasting church but we did see God change many people’s lives.

Isaiah received a wonderful promise: “The Word of God will not come back void.”

Listen to Isaiah 55:11: “So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth; It shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”

I first discovered that promise as a college student preaching revivals across California. It was never going to be about me — it was going to be about the Word of God. Preach the powerful and life-changing Word of God and be amazed at what God will do. I certainly wish that the church we intended to start was still going strong, but I am grateful that 75 people came to know the Lord and many were trained to be followers of Christ.

Are you carrying a ministry “failure” in your heart? Is it possible that you have forgotten the amazing things God did as you presented, taught and preached God’s Word?

His Word does not come back void. When it is sent out, it changes the lives of those who hear it. The Word will accomplish the pleasures of God, not our pleasures and desires even if they are great and godly. I can’t wait to get to heaven and find out how God used those new believers and new disciples.

    About the Author

  • Randy L. Bennett

    Randy L. Bennett is director of missions for the Kern County Southern Baptist Association in Bakersfield, Calif., and current president of the California Southern Baptist Convention.

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