Secret Ministry Sauce: The spiritual vitality of the leader.

What do you think of this quote from Paul Tripp?

I am more and more convinced that what gives a ministry its motivations, perseverance, humility, joy, tenderness, passion, and grace is the devotional life of the one doing ministry. When I daily admit how needy I am, daily meditate on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and daily feed on the restorative wisdom of his Word, I am propelled to share with others the grace that I am daily receiving at the hands of my Savior. There simply is no set of exegetical, homiletical, or leadership skills that can compensate for the absence of this in the life of a pastor. It is my worship that enables me to lead others to worship. It is my sense of need that leads me to tenderly pastor those in need of grace. It is my joy in my identity in Christ that leads me to want to help others live in the middle of what it means to be “in Christ.” In fact, one of the things that makes a sermon compelling is that the preacher is worshiping his way through his own sermon.(Dangerous Calling, 35)

If this is the real secret of ministry, then the burden for effective ministry really comes down the spiritual maturity and spiritual vitality of the main leader.

Is this correct?

If so, the logical correlation is this:

325,000 churches in America.

Many/most of them dying/declining/plateaued/nearly dead


Most pastors are spiritually disconnected, immature, and/or apathetic.

Is this the wrong correlation to make?

If you agree with Tripp, what other assessment could/would you give?

What do YOU think?  I’d love to hear your thoughts…

HT:  Kevin DeYoung



  • Another question that comes to mind: Is it possible for a ministry leader to be as close as ever in his/her walk with God and still be leading an apparently dying ministry?

  • Pastor Chris January 24, 2013 Reply

    Wait, wait!
    While I agree that spiritual vitality is a critical part of a lively ministry, it is no magical guarantee of success in this year or with these people. Jesus himself would be good proof of that. On Easter Saturday it certainly appears that this person had been leading “an apparently dying ministry”, but we know him to have been spiritually vital.

    We also have abundant evidence that ministry leaders who are dead inside can carry on quite successfully for a while.

    Some ministries are going to seem unsuccessful and some are going to be unsuccessful, no matter how rich the spiritual life of the leader. And some successful-appearing ministries and leaders are going to turn out to be hollow inside.

    Which is which? That’s why God gives us the gifts of discernment.

  • Jim January 24, 2013 Reply

    With what standard(s) do we measure success? And is it correct to place all the responsibility for the “success” of a church on the pastor? Do the elders (or lay leaders) also share in that responsibility? If so, how much?

  • Steve Miller January 24, 2013 Reply

    There is no clear and concise cause and effect correlation which will allow you to ever determine precisely what causes a church to grow in number. From the reprinted snippet Dr. Tripp is discussing what makes a message resonate or deliver the greatest possible spiritual impact. He is right in pointing out a pastor who receives the first fruits of his own spiritual life is going to be a more vibrant and earnest leader. A Pastor who is after God’s Kingdom for his own spiritual health and fulfillment is going to be able to distribute Kingdom resources to his congregants. Unfortunately there are too many variables involved to try to associate delivering a good sermon with church health or growth; nor to show a relationship between declining congregation’s numbers being linked to apathetic pastors.

  • Pastor Ron January 24, 2013 Reply

    While it is true that many churches are in decline,there are many factors that affect this statistic. The church for years has had a form of godliness and (acted like the world) denying Gods power. Statistics in the American church bear out that we have not been living according to the Spirit. I do agree that if we are truly serving Christ the way He wants it will be out of the overflow of our walk and not in spite of it. There are many”successful” churches that are not , in my opinion following after God, just tickling itching ears. Let us not be guilty of assuming bigger is always “more spiritual”.
    We (the church) need to “return to our first love” and serve Him the way he deserves.

  • Pastor David Cox January 25, 2013 Reply

    I totally agree. But your accessment is still off greatly. The problem is not that they (the principal pastor leaders) are poor Christians, the problem is that they are not even saved! Salvation is a dynamic relationship with the Savior that goes beyond a 20 second sinner’s prayer, and is something whereby the individual is transformed into the image of Christ, and this is main priority of life for him/her. Christians need, must have, seek this transformation. Wesley saw it as a second work of grace, but it is not. It is just a true salvation and what consequences ALWAYS follow true saving faith.

    The issue is very simply, the “system” focuses on steps to entering the ministry, and these steps are all non-spiritual, achievements, i.e. college Bible education, seminary education, “people skills”, leadership skills, etc. What ever happened to just being saved? Having a vibrate relationship with our Lord? This is what your article rightly brings out. We are “too (humanly) smart” for our own good.

    See some of my tracts
    CH16 Marks of a Man of God
    We reproduce the moral character of our leaders in our people. Leader=0. People will be =0.

    CH19 Marks of a False Prophet
    If the pastor is not a vibrant Christian, then he is teaching his people to be hypocrites by his own example.

    CH24 The Power of an Example
    What moral examples are before us, affect us. Pastor=unsaved, bad.

    CH38 Recognizing a Good Pastor
    How do you know when a man is going to be a Good pastor? These are the marks.

    CH41 The Marks of a Bad Minister
    The inverse of CH38

    CH42 The Destitution of the Pastor
    What are the biblical issues in a Pastor leaving or being forced out?

    CH43 When is it time to leave your Church?
    A wake up call for when the church-pastor won’t fix the issues wrong with it.

    CH45 Grading a Bible Teacher
    What are the marks of a Good teacher of God’s Word.

    The issues I bring up in these tracts and the light from the Bible on them would help God’s people greatly if studied and understood.

  • Pastor Gary April 9, 2013 Reply

    I say amen, amen, amen to Mr. Tripp’s article. A personal time with God through prayer and His Word is essential for the pastor, and every believer. I know from personal experience that personal time with God causes me to think and act differently.

    Pastor Wayne Cordeiro’s book, The Divine Mentor, is excellent for developing daily alone time with God.

  • Don Jones April 9, 2013 Reply

    The challenge to continue in personal growth and ministry is a good challenge. But to make the jump to no local church growth, therefore pastor is not spiritual is wrong-headed. As has been pointed out, look at Jesus’ ministry when people walked away when the bar was set high, also look at OT prophets. There is personal responsibility and no “cookie-cutter” approach.

  • Roger Vest March 16, 2015 Reply

    The question definitely grabs your attention and stirs up conversation. I applaud you for that 🙂 To make this a definitive connection is a bit of a stretch.

    The highlighted quote – There simply is no set of exegetical, homiletical, or leadership skills that can compensate for the absence of this in the life of a pastor. – I believe is dead on. One might be able to hide it for a while, but in the end, people will find out that the preacher has no clothes on (to borrow a nice metaphor) Thanks for sharing this.

  • Don Btown March 16, 2015 Reply

    The situation is not just created by the lack of spiritual focus of the leader, but rather on the loss of focus on developing spiritual maturity as the main purpose of the church. Churches are to be disciple-making institutions, but they have lost track of what it takes to make a disciple, and what a disciple is supposed to look like. I like to think of what would happen if a church leader were to go before the Sharks (shark tank) and try to “sell” their idea for the product of the church.. “Now, I can’t quite describe what it is we’re trying to make, and I can’t exactly say what process we are using to make it – but it’s really important that you get behind me on this.”

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