When it comes to ministry you can apparently use “we’re just trying to be faithful.” As an excuse for failure all the time.
So your church isn’t doing too well….”we’re just trying to be faithful.”
Or your ministry area keeps on flopping….”we’re just trying to be faithful.”
This phrase is gold for any moment when you don’t want to face self-assessment and deal with the potential that it might be a competence issue or a leadership issue. There are plenty of seasons in ministry when we have to deal with failure, sometimes we deal with seasons when the soil is hard and there is barely a rain-shower to make anything grow. Other times you just can’t find enough labourers to help harvest the crop.
Yet in the pursuit of avoiding using the “successful” phrase in ministry we have opted for a cop-out to use the “faithful” phrase. With this we can mask any of our short-comings under the blanket of God and assume it is acceptable. Perhaps God is teaching you that growth is in order, that learning is necessary. Or you need to surround yourself with folks you can plug your short-comings. Or maybe you are terrible and need to train a LOT more.
I wonder if the purple-patch of ministry comes when we are right in the middle of the three circles. Faithful, competent and as a result we see fruit in our ministry. Are there moments when you are faithful and competent and see no fruit? Sure. Are there times when you can be competent and fruitful and lack faith? Most definitely. Can you be faithful and fruitful and completely incompetent? Absolutely.
There does need to be an evaluation from time to time if your ministry bares no fruit that perhaps there is a competency issue. For all the chest pounding, zealous, soul-searching, fist waving dedication to God’s word are you actually producing any fruit. It isn’t a knowledge competition, it is a wisdom event. In that relentless drive to make a point have you missed the window to make a different. All of us need to be more faithful. The lack of fruit in ministry though might be a competence issue. The Gospel message is magnificently simple and infinitely complex.
Failure is only bad if you don’t learn from your mistakes. Just try harder isn’t the solution. We need to keep doing what we’re doing, isn’t the answer. Just tweak it, doesn’t work. At some point, scrap it, burn it and go back to the drawing board. At what point, after seasons of unfruitful ministry do you say, “This isn’t working. We have a competency issue and need to change.” The horse is dead and on the way to the glue factory.
We all need faith, but that doesn’t excuse incompetence.