In part one, I laid out the single aspect of pastoral ministry that sets it apart from every other employment a human being can set his hand to: a pastor cannot infallibly measure his success by the visible fruits of his labor.
Some of the comments in the meta (which I commend to you) were so good that it's tempting simply to edit them together as a response. However, one or two still tended in the simplistic, "I-don't-see-what-your-issue-is" direction. So let me try to flesh it out a bit, and give more Biblical background.
The dilemma was expressed poignantly by Ligon Duncan at this year's outstanding Together for the Gospel conference. It was during a discussion after a message and, Herodotus-like, I'll give you a compressed summary:
If you go to a car factory, you might see all this disparate little pieces assembled one by one. And then, at the end — you have a car. It's done! Or even if you do something as insignificant as mowing a lawn, at the end, you can look back — and the lawn is mown. You see it. You're done.And then Ligon put it this way: "Pastors are always wanting to get that interim report card."
But you can never say that in pastoral ministry. Ever!
He had put it so poignantly that it resonated deeply with me, and brought tears to my eyes. I doubt I was the only one in the room thus affected. Ligon phrased it perfectly, summed up the most trying aspect of pastoral ministry: insofar as you're a tender-hearted, God-centered pastor at all, you're desperate to know if you're pleasing Him, desperate to find some way of telling — now! — what you're going to hear when your ministry stands in review.
But there is no interim report-card. Not really.
If there were, what would it be? What is the visible, right-now, infallible indicator? Businesses have used the phrase, "How are we doing?" Every God-honoring pastor would like to be able to ask the Lord, "How am I doing?"
How could we tell? By numbers? If so, then Joel Osteen is a God-blessed success. Robert Schuller, Benny Hinn, Bishop Arius, Pelagius, Joseph Smith, Charles Finney, Harry Emerson Fosdick, every pope, Mohammed, Buddha — all of them have God's seal of approval, if numbers tell the tale.
And conversely, Jeremiah was a failure. Isaiah was a failure. Elijah was a failure. Moses was a failure. Paul failed in Lystra, and at other times. And, what's more, by that mark (I speak as a fool), Jesus was a failure, more than once. Edwards and Machen and Athanasius in their lifetimes experienced failure, at the points we (in retrospect) count them as most successful for the Kingdom.
But, if large numbers are no sure sign, then are small crowds, by contrast, proof of faithfulness, and large crowds just proof of the converse? Then Whitefield was a failure, Spurgeon was a failure; Piper is a failure, McArthur is a failure.
If outward signs are unreliable — and they surely are — can we tell how well we please God, by using internal indicators? Will He give us a reliable sense of success, a feeling that we are pleasing Him? Do we get that "interim report card" in our hearts, our souls?
If so, that sense was denied (at one time or another) to Jeremiah, to Asaph, to David.
I think we have to admit it: there is no single, analogous, infallible advance-indicator of pastoral success, externally or internally.
And yet pastoral ministry is vital, indispensable, essential, God-conceived, God-given, God-required, God-ordained, God-centered, and God-evaluated. We can't shrug off the question.
What's more, if you're worth anything as a pastor, you care. You care a lot. It isn't of distant or academic interest, because this isn't a hobby. It's your life, and you know that its echoes sound out into eternity.
What's more, if you're married and have children, the course of your ministry does not only affect you. It affects the dearest woman in your world, and the dearest children in your world, all of whose lives are indissolubly bound up with you.
If you — for the sake of argument, and to be blunt, simple and bottom-line — take a Biblically-necessary, God-honoring stand that alienates the people who pay your salary; if you see numbers steadily dwindle; if you see bills pile up; if you see yourself eventually forced to move... what kind of jerk could just shrug dispassionately and say, "Oh, well. Long as I'm being faithful" — and not care? It's your wife whose lot in life is bound up with yours. It's your children who have to uproot their lives, lose all their friends and familiar surroundings, and wander off where you wander.
If you mess up, they get messed up.
So what's a pastor to do?
Next time, Lord willing, such as I have will be yours, in short form.