This past week at the Sovereign Grace Fellowship Pastors' Conference, Brad Powers spoke on The Pattern of Pastoral Ministry in 2 Corinthians. The paper was unique because it took Paul's second letter to the church in Corinth and surveyed how Paul pastored.
People today talk about counter-culture ministry and then seek to be empowered with new techniques or end up being burdened with guilt because of their own lack of success because they have not followed the program and the leaders. 2 Corinthian Pastoral Ministry is counter-culture in our church age.
Brad pointed out under the heading Perspectives of Pastoral Circumstance that Paul ministered in weakness. He identified with a crucified Christ (10.1; 13.4); he refused to push himself forward (chapter 11-12); he was under the constant pressure of "parenting" a church (12.14-15); he refuses to use weapons of the flesh in the battle (2.17; 10.1-4); and he recognizes the power of the enemy who has blinded the minds of those who do not believe (4.3-6). In other words, he recognizes his own lack of power, Satan's limited power and God's unlimited power.
But does this mean that Paul's ministry is weak? Absolutely not as all this leads to a ministry of great strength. It forces Paul to rely on God who raises the dead rather than his own strength (1.9-11); it results in Christ being pushed forward rather than a mere man (4.5); it results in the edification of the church through the hardships and overwhelming task of parenting a people (12.19); it allows the use of weapons that are actually effective rather than the impotent weapons of flesh (10.3-4); and it focuses attention on God who makes the light shine rather than on the deep darkness of the enemy (4.4-7).
So many weapons given to pastors today actually make them weak and ineffective. There can be so much self and sin in ministry. On the other hand, ministry can be ineffective because we do not rely on God's power. Maybe that is the reason why the church seems to impotent today - we have not carried out a 2 Corinthians ministry which relies alone on God's great power but have substituted it with programs, egos, and pathetic human effort. Search 2 Corinthians and seek to carry out a powerful ministry because we serve a powerful God.