"Fields plowed and sown, yet yielding no fruit! Machinery constantly in motion, yet all without one particle of produce! Nets cast into the sea, and spread wide, yet no fishes inclosed! All this for years -- for a lifetime! How strange! Yet it is true. There is neither fancy nor exaggeration in the matter. Question some ministers, and what other account can they give? They can tell you of sermons preached, but of sermons blessed they can say nothing. They can speak of discourses that were admired and praised, but of discourses that have been made effectual by the Holy Spirit they can not speak. They can tell you how many have been baptized, how many communicants admitted; but of souls awakened, converted, ripening in grace, they can give no account. They can enumerate the sacraments they have dispensed; but as to whether any of them have been "times of refreshing" or times of awakening, they can not say. They can tell you what and how many cases of discipline have passed through their hands; but whether any of these have issued in godly sorrow for sin, whether the professed penitents who were absolved by them gave evidence of being "washed and sanctified and justified," they can give no information; they never thought of such an issue!They can tell what is the attendance at Sunday school, and what are the abilities of the teacher; but how many of these precious little ones whom they have vowed to feed are seeking the Lord they know not; or whether their teacher be a man of prayer and piety they can not say. They can tell you the population of their parish, the number of their congregation, or the temporal condition of their flocks; but as to their spiritual state, how many have been awakened from the sleep of death, how many are followers of God as dear children, they can not pretend to say. Perhaps they would deem it rashness and presumption, if not fanaticism, to inquire. And yet they have sworn, before men and angels, to watch for their souls as they that must give account! But oh, of what use are sermons, sacraments, schools, if souls are left to perish; if living religion be lost sight of; if the Holy Spirit be not sought; if men are left to grow up and die unpitied, unprayed for, unwarned" H. Bonar
Often we fall into "doing" ministry rather than being ministers. Lives lived in reflecting God's glory are only overpowered by the very Word of God; we must live as if lives depend on our sanctification, because they do. The closer we are to Christ the more we will correctly reflect all that He is.
I am also reminded, as I read this small book, that we need to be asking the hard questions. When was te last time you asked someone of their spiritual condition, when you had questions, concerning their soul? When did you last ask someone, "Are you sure you are saved" or "How is your soul condition"? They may very well be waiting for someone to ask and that someone might just be you. We must fight against fearing men.
Who wants to be a part of barren ministry? No one! How is your ministry? How are you doing living out the joys of salvation for all the world to see? Is your light shining before men? Have you left your first love? Are you in ministry yet your first love has always been yourself; not God? Many in the church today are doing ministry in the flesh and that is no way to have fruit in your ministry. May we be passionate followers of Christ, asking hard questions and loving the lost. God can give that to us, but we must ask.