Results: Should the preacher expect them?

Not only should a pastor expect results from his pulpit ministry, but expectation should be the general tone of the pastor's ministry. A man who preaches the Gospel should expect results because, based upon the evidence following the resurrection of Jesus Christ, there is not a negative note in the New Testament. Jesus said, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit" (John 15:16a). In the Old Testament, the Bible states, "the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits" (Daniel 11:32b). Jesus is an optimist. The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus is now sitting at God's right hand, "expecting till his enemies be made his footstool" (Hebrews 10:13b). In other words, that is the tone of Christ, and this same Christ is in you. Why should expectancy not be the preacher's tone? 

Although I [Adrian Rogers] believe the preacher should be confident in expecting results, I would caution pastors to be careful how they measure and quantify results. Sometimes a lack of public response has caused me to experience feelings of personal failure. This was particularly true during the early years. I was convinced that a lack of public decisions for Christ was my fault. I would be so distraught that I did not want to stand at the church door following worship. I did not want to see anyone. How I wished the church had a back door so I could go out, run into the woods, and hide my shame from the people. I felt responsible. And if anyone told me it was a good sermon, it would make me angry because I believed they said it out of pity. I was tortured by the thought that if I had prayed more, or if I had prepared more, or if I were not so obtuse in my speaking, that there would have been better results. 

Maturing in the Word of God allowed me to both stop condemning myself over the lack of results and to stop congratulating myself over good results. I'd describe this maturing as an ecology that one acquires from learning the battle is the Lord's and the results are His business and not the preacher's business. 

Likewise, I would caution preachers against the danger of expecting specific results. For years, I preached three messages each Sunday morning at Bellevue Baptist Church. The experience of preaching three messages on the same morning helped me mature in an understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit in relation to results. I came to understand that there was a mystery to preaching just as there was a mystery to the new birth. 

In our old sanctuary, before we built our new one, I preached each Sunday three times back to back, 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., and 11 a.m. I preached the same message. Sometimes at 8, Heaven would come down with visible results, 9:30 would be flat, and 11 powerful again. Sometimes one service would be powerful and two services would be flat. Sometimes I would preach at 8 and ask, "I wonder if God has forsaken me? I wonder if this sermon ought to be put in the fire? I wonder what is wrong. What have I done? Where is God? What has happened?"

It was an enlightening experience to observe how differently the Holy Spirit would move in each service. The Apostle John, in the fourth Gospel, compares the Holy Spirit to a wind that "bloweth where it listeth" (John 3:8a). The first service may have had no visible decisions, yet one hour later, with the same preacher and the same sermon, there would be many decisions won for Christ. 

And so I learned that it was impossible for a preacher to telegraph results. The Apostle Paul wrote, "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase" (1 Corinthians 3:6). The preacher should anticipate results, yet not demand them, for he must allow God to be God. 

While the preacher should understand that God gives the increase, he cannot become indifferent concerning a lack of results. 

The pastor should never make peace with the reality of preaching without results. I have heard some preachers say in regard to lack of fruit in their ministry, "I don't worry about results because that is God's concern." However, if the truth be known, the lack of results is sometimes the pastor's fault because he has been cool, diffident, and has failed to pray. 

The preacher should avoid claiming the lack of results as God's doing, when, in reality, it may be his own failure. God's economy of results is much like abiding in Christ: Some pastors interpret indolence and laziness to be abiding in the Lord. 

The main task of the preacher is to abide in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. The size of the grapes and the number of grapes are not the preacher's concern.

*This question and answer were extracted from "Love Worth Finding: The Life of Adrian Rogers and His Philosophy of Preaching.”