What preachers want most and pray for hardest

“My heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation” (Romans 10:1).

Nothing affirms a pastor more than seeing people come to Christ and becoming new creations. That’s why ministers whose churches are regularly baptizing new believers cannot wait to tell you about it. They’re not bragging–well, okay, most of them aren’t–but rejoicing.  It feels like, “Finally! I’m getting this right!”

Likewise, nothing weighs down a minister and makes him think he may be spinning his wheels like seeing no one responding, no lives changed. It’s days like this when he looks around for something else to do with his life–take another church, find another career, go back to seminary, something. It feels like failure.

To be sure, the Lord is always at work, doing things beneath the surface unseen by human eyes. And anyone who ventures to do anything by faith–to worship and give, to serve and preach and minister–must go into it knowing that he/she may not see the results in this lifetime, and believing that the Sovereign Lord can use the weakest vessel and the poorest voice.

And yet.

We do like to see lives changes.  It’s what we are about.

At the moment this piece is written, some from our church–including one of our sons–are on the other side of the world on a short-term mission project.  When they return, they will share their stories.  They painted this church building, encouraged those ministers, played with children in a park, reached out to pedestrians on the street, prayer-walked those neighborhoods, and fed the hungry.  Will they be able to report that lives were changed, that people came to Christ, that the Kingdom of God was extended?  We hope so. That would be great.

If they do or even if they cannot, only the Lord in Heaven knows what was accomplished.

The glowing reports of large numbers saved often are inaccurate. The reports of the other kind also–no one responded!–may be just as unreliable.

We must leave matters with the Father or we will soon lose heart and drop by the wayside.

One of the most destructive things God’s people do is to look at missions from a cost-benefits ratio.  This much money was spent, this many man-hours invested, and for what? This many souls transformed.

Leave your business model at the door when you enter church, friend. You will work (and live and worship and give and pray) by faith or you will not be able to do this.

“Without faith, it is impossible to please HIm” (Hebrews 11:6).  That says it, doesn’t it?

And the greatest of all the faith verses, six words which changed the world: “The just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11).

It’s about faith.  We go forth on faith, preach and serve and give by faith, and return home in the faith that God is still at work there, that He will use the little things we did there, and that He has more work for us in other places.

“When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)


A man in our church who had literally despised me–and had written a letter to say exactly that!–walked up to me in our fellowship hall one evening at some event. “Preacher, I am so ashamed of my behavior. Would you forgive me?” We hugged and thereafter, every time we met at church, he and I hugged.

A man with a reputation as the biggest bigot in town was a member of my church. People told of the time an African-American mechanic at a service station had sassed him, and he picked up a tire iron and hit him upside the head. He took no prisoners, showed no mercy. But the day came when he humbled himself and repented and confessed his sins to the church.

A young man from our church who had gone out as a missionary was released when pornography was discovered on his laptop.  He returned home in humiliation, then came to me, his former pastor, to confess.  “I’d like to confess before the entire church,” he said, “and ask for their forgiveness.”  I actually tried to talk him out of that, saying that it was unnecessary. He said, “I need this, pastor. Please let me.”  He did it and the congregation showered him with love and affirmed him with their prayers. He is now happily married and serving God.

Changed lives come in all varieties.  And yes, that’s what we are all about.  But as any veteran pastor can tell you, it may be years before you learn of some lives the Lord touched through your ministry.

“Let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we do not grow weary” (Galatians 6:9).

Stay in the field, laborer of the Lord. The harvest will come soon enough, and only then will you learn what the Father did through your faithfulness.

I love, love, love the line from Luke 14:14 where Jesus has just urged His disciples to invite to their parties those who cannot repay the favor, and He says, “And you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  I read that and smile. Isn’t it just a little like saying,”If you’ll lend me 10 dollars today, I’ll pay you back in Heaven”?  Of course, in this case, the One speaking has an entirely different perspective from you and me.

“You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  Three questions occur to me, all of them apropos to our discussion here: Can you wait that long? Can you believe that strong? Can we sing that song?

Hang in there, servant of the Lord. You’re doing just fine.



6 thoughts on “What preachers want most and pray for hardest

  1. I told my wife yesterday on the way out the door to our prayer meeting that I was discouraged. I came home encouraged. Her prayers, and the power of a real prayer meeting always pay dividends. Thanks for the article.

    (It was a rare Wednesday when she stayed home with our son to work on math)

    • Stephen, you’re still new in that church. Can you imagine how some pastors stay in small churches year after year, the same church, preaching to the same people Sunday after Sunday, and do not get discouraged? Let’s find out how they do it.

  2. Can you wait that long? Can you believe that strong? Can we sing that song? Bro. Joe, you are starting to sound like Adrian Rogers!

    As usual, great article, my friend. It’s true. Few things rekindle my fire like hearing someone express how they are growing in their walk with the Lord because of something with which I was or am connected. And 20+ years into it (just getting started, I know), it thrills me to see those I invested in who are now in full-time service and investing in others.

  3. Thanks for the counsel. I’ve been at the same church for almost 12 years. Things seem so dead and I have wanted to abandon ship for quite a while, but don’t seem free to leave. The feelings of being just a huge failure wash over me so often I have a hard time dragging myself through the week. I am sure there are many out there who are in similar circumstances. I am now in my mid fifties. I was honored to pastor a church about 20 years ago that grew and was a great blessing. I now think that if the Lord tarries and my health allows I probably have about 15 years left and I want them to count for the Lord’s glory. I’ve seen a bumper sticker recently that said, “Stuck in Ohio” and thought that’s me…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.