What Really Matters in Ministry

By Darius Salter
Grand Rapids : Baker (1990). 205 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Richard Mayhue
2.1 (Spring 1991) : 121-122

Pastoral success is much sought after, frequently claimed, rarely achieved, and vaguely understood. Darius Salter does the pastoral community a grand favor by bringing "success" into biblical focus without ignoring its implications in real life. Salter exposes the "nickels and noses" philosophy of pastoral success as unreasonable, not to mention, unbiblical.

What Really Matter's in Ministry is two books for the price of one. Chapters one through five trace success in the American church, and chapters six and seven examine the subject in the ministry/writings of Jesus and Paul. It combines the best of both theology and reality.

Salter broadly defines a successful pastor as one who under the call of God gives himself wholeheartedly, according to God-given wisdom but limited perception, by the power of the Holy Spirit to the spiritual nurture of people (p. 194). He reflects on the biblical balance of utmost personal effort and total reliance on God for the results.

For those who wonder how other pastors fare in the ministry, prioritize their efforts, and yield fruit from their labor, Salter provides a current profile from his recent survey of "successful" pastors. One hundred eighty forms were circulated to pastors of nineteen denomina-tions. These were chosen because they pastored rapidly growing churches with over 500 in attendance on Sunday mornings. One hundred responded to the survey. A sample of the "Successful Pastors Inventory" can be found on pp 39-41.

According to the survey, prayer and preaching highlighted pastoral priorities (pp. 43-53). Those responding averaged 52 minutes a day in prayer (p. 44) and directly linked their "success" (fruit) in preaching to the accompanying prayer (p. 57).

Chapter three highlights the personal qualities of the men with growing ministries. They include a sense of pastoral accountability to God, personal dynamic, being a self-starter, long-term commitment to present ministry, vision, being people-oriented, effective preaching, and energetic optimism. Salter balances this chapter by commenting that these observations "only tacitly concern the spiritual and theological qualifications of ministry." However, they do provide a practical side of ministry that cannot be ignored, but must be framed by the biblical mandates.

For those who struggle with rejection by their flock, the account of Jonathan Edward's struggles brings perspective (pp. 145-48). The author's comments on Christ's lack of preoccupation with plaques and other public symbols of recognition will bring encouragement (p. 156). His exegetical discussion of "prosperity" gives clarity to those who are confused (pp. 149-56). Paul's view of success provides both a standard by which it should be measured and a humility which it should bring (pp. 169-91).

In the Foreword, Robert Coleman notes, "In the effort to be effective, however, let us not confuse measurable statistics with the values of heaven." Salter has sought, and in large measure "succeeded," in keeping kingdom values preeminent while discussing twentieth-century ministries that exhibit the same kind of personal (2 Pet 3:18) and corporate growth (Acts) that Scripture enjoins all shepherds to pursue.

He reflects upon the ultimate of pastoral fruit in this manner: "To whatever extent Christ-likeness is being formed in their flock, they are successful" (p. 193). This work will stimulate and challenge the earnest pastor to a new level of spiritual effort.