The 90% Rule

Jeremiah 31:28

Just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord.

1 Corinthians 3:6–7

Paul wrote: I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.


The hand of God in the life, mission, and ministry of the church may not be readily apparent. But 90% of what happens in a congregation’s life is completely out of the control of the pastor, leadership, or any one group of people except it seems for the pain and destruction that can be caused by any one of those people. In other words, any good that a local church experiences is 90% out of the control of people while people seemingly can cause 90% of the bad. Those percentages are not scientific, but seem to be true from my experience.

Recently I have been reminded of this as I have had the privilege of hosting Pastor Jeff Doria and Maggie, Jeff’s wife, at St. John. We have extended a Divine Call to him to serve as associate pastor at St. John. I have said more than once, “‘The Lord has drawn the lines in pleasant places’ here at St. John.” (cf. Psalm 16:6) I am keenly aware that the location of St. John, the attitude of the community toward the Christian Church, the forethought of many generations of people in purchasing land and building the campus we have added to are all things over which I have no control.

While I have worked diligently to bring us to where we are today, and many people have embraced the vision I have shared, it is not lost on me that God brings the growth! I will certainly continue to plant and water as I am able, and I hope that Pastor Doria joins our ministry team at St. John. But in the end, all glory goes to God (not a mere 90%!). For it is also true as Paul says in Philippians 2:13, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Lord God, You have appointed me as a Bishop and Pastor in Your Church, but you see how unsuited I am to meet so great and difficult a task. If I had lacked Your help, I would have ruined everything long ago. Therefore, I call upon You: I wish to devote my mouth and my heart to you; I shall teach the people. I myself will learn and ponder diligently upon You Word. Use me as Your instrument — but do not forsake me, for if ever I should be on my own, I would easily wreck it all. (Martin Luther’s Sacristy Prayer)



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