Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Confessions of a Reformed Baptist Plodder

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on September 24, 2009 at 3:07 am

Many years ago, an article was put into my hands, at just the right time, in just the right place in my life, which has impacted me for many years.  Most Christians can testify of a time they heard an old truth as if they heard it for the first time.  These are truths that become part of us and stay with us through good times and the seemingly difficult ones.

In December of 1983, Maurice Roberts wrote an article in the Banner of Truth magazine entitled, “On the Excellence of Plodding.”  My own church can testify to the fact that I have used that phrase dozens and dozens of times since.  I was starting my second year as an elder in a reforming Baptist Church.  My co-elder and I were doing our best to bring Biblical truth to a church that had strong Fundamentalist roots.  As I said, we were trying, but we ourselves were still learning.  As we were trying to better understand the reformed faith ourselves, we were leading, but admittedly did not fully know where we were going.

While in this process of reform, we saw many more individuals leave through the back door than were coming through the front.  By the time reform had come to our church in 1985 (yes, always reforming, but we finally were settled on the 1689) we had seen our attendance go from an average of 120 to about 50.  This decline came about generally by a couple of families leaving together and inevitably in a few months a couple more leaving.  These were often discouraging times.  Some new folks would come, but then even many of these new folks would leave.  We never had a mass exodus, but it seemed no family was ever content to leave without taking someone with them, with the exception of those moving out of the area.  Other circumstances would eventually leave me as the sole elder in 1989, with an average attendance of about 40.

During that time, and ever since, “plodding” has been my personal theme of ministry.  In spite of the fact everyone nods their head in agreement to the famous parable of the tortoise and the hare, few Americans actually applaud “plodding”.  Plodding is considered unsuccessful.  In Bible College, I was taught that any fool could grow a church to 300!  Something had to be wrong with you if you couldn’t do something as simple as that in the space of a few years.  With that in my background, and the apparent lack of personal success, you can see why Maurice Roberts’ article was exactly what I needed during that time.

What is Biblical plodding?  It is simply being faithful to the means that God has ordained.  It isn’t being lazy, and it isn’t being passive.  Instead, it is refusing the gimmicks and trends of the day.  It is staying with the preached Word in an expository manner.  It is a settled conviction that God is wiser than we are, and He has written a definitive Word that covers all of life.  We can preach His Word with confidence, verse by verse and at times word by word, plod through it, and see God work by His Holy Spirit in hearts and lives.  Some men are gifted to preach topically, but I know I do best by plodding.  There are subjects I have preached upon that I actually did not want to preach, early in the week.  However, these very subjects have often been to our congregation’s greatest profit.  As a congregation, we plodded through them, and were the better off for it.

Now, I have seen churches in our area grow much faster than ours.  A few miles from us, there is a church that started 14 years ago as a Home Bible Study with 12 members.  Today, they have 7,000!  Southern California IS the land of the mega church.   Nevertheless, I have found my greatest joy in the ministry from “plodding.”  The ministry is accomplished day by day and Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day.  The work is accomplished slowly in the hearts and lives of others.  What a blessing to visit a mom in the hospital, and hold her newborn baby and share in that family’s joy!  What joy to see that same little one, raised up in the church, come to maturity and come to Christ in His time!  Then, plod long enough and you get to perform the marriage of that same individual, and then eventually visit him/her in the hospital with their own newborn!  What a joy to see a lost man or woman, begin to attend services, and continue to attend, and eventually come to faith themselves!  It’s exciting to see a Christian, come to you from another place, begin to understand the doctrines of grace, and get for themselves a whole new Bible.  All this is usually done one person at a time, one plodding step at a time.

Not every pastor gets the privilege to stay in one place long enough for that scenario to play itself out.  God in His providence moves His servants according to His purposes and plans.  God also moves individual members to new places of service.  Instead of getting discouraged when a family moves, remember that now you have the joy of having brothers and sisters all over this great country, as part of other churches.  They took a part of your ministry with them to their new place of service!  You never know what God will do through them, and He often surprises the faithful plodder when fruit spring up in a different location!

A faithful ministry will most often be characterized by “plodding.”  There are not many who have the gifts of Spurgeon.  Most faithful pastors will labor for their entire ministry in obscurity.  Only a few will become well known in this life, and some of those will come to regret it.  For the vast majority, our greatest good will come by faithfully plodding, day by day, the same task we urge upon our people.  We all know the race is not to the swift.  The Christian life is an endurance race.  So it is with the ministry.  Endure, and keep running, even at your plodding pace, even when others are sprinting past you.  You’re not racing against them.  To their own master they will stand or fall.  Keep running until you come to your appointed finish line!

The world, even the Christian world, does not always appreciate a plodder, but Christ will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” to those who continue to use the God appointed means in the God appointed way.  God used that article by Maurice Roberts as one of the means to keep this pastor in the ministry, and to keep him “plodding.”

Steve Marquedant
Sovereign Grace Reformed Baptist Church
Ontario, California
www.sgbc-ontario.us
  1. This was a delightful read. Thank you very much.

  2. Dear brother Steve-

    From one plodder to another, thank you, thank you, thank you. I wept as I read your article. What great joy there is in being at your post, laboring for the Lord in your own meager way, confident all the while that this is the work He has given you to do, and that He will bless it, use it, glorify Himself with it, and reward you for it as He sees fit. O what could be better than this?

    Gratefully,
    Jim Domm
    Engelwood Baptist Church

  3. Thank you, Steve.

    With the letter of a member’s departure recently shared by David Charles in the background, your article is as apples of gold in settings of silver.

    Thanks for the timely balm.

    Mark Chanski
    Reformed Baptist Church of Holland, MI

  4. Amen Steve how true indeed. May the Lord continue to give us grace to plod. William Carey said it ‘I can plod’ !! A great encouragement to me over the years.

  5. I wish that every pastor could read this article and realize that they don’t have to compete with other churches, that they don’t need to tweak the Word fo God in order to bring sinners to repentence (is that really going to work anyway?). How wonderful to have a few true believers in Christ on the Lord’s Day then many pseudo-christians. I praise and give thanks to God for every faithful plodder and pray the Lord will continue to impress this important truth upon His undershepherds, as He did to my pastor so many years ago. Thank you Pastor Steve you are a great blessing to us at SGBC.

  6. Thank you Brother Steve for your simple, honest, straight forward, encouraging post today. I appreciate you sharing God’s faithfulness to you as you have serve Him these years in diligence and earnestness.
    May the Lord help us all to do so with much vigor and passion.

    I am reminded of a quote from Charles Bridges in his work “The Christian Ministry” that has encouraged me,

    “Ministerial success must be viewed, as ‘extending beyond present appearances’. The seed may lie under the clods till we lie there, and ‘then spring up'”

    Press on Brothers!
    Curt Arend
    Grace Bible Church San Diego

  7. Steve – I could not agree more, and shout AMEN! to all you said – how accuratly it reflects my own heart and experience and philosophy of life – it is like you were inside of my own head saying what I have been doing and experiencing for decades. Thanks for putting it into words so well.

  8. Beloved Pastor Steve,

    That is one of the best blog articles I have ever read. I’m so thankful that we get to receive this same type of pastoral teaching and exhortation on a weekly basis. With these current digital means, others now are able to share in these blessings too. I believe all of the pastors who take the time to submit articles here – above and beyond all the rest of their busy schedules of teaching, preaching, visiting, counseling etc. Plus the care of their own families… Simply amazing. God is sooo good.

    You have not been blogging that long, please keep plodding here as well is my prayer.

    Bro Pat Quick

  9. This was a very good letter and very thought provoking. We may not say it enough, but we (sheep) really appreciate the faithfulness of our pastors in looking out for our best interests. We are surely blessed to have such who truly care for our souls.

  10. Great article and so true. Every Christian has to be a plodder and I can attest to that. What a joy it has been for me to come out of surgery and know my pastor is there praying for me. What a joy to come to service and hear faithful teaching because you are a plodder, faithful to your calling. I believe God has kept us the size we are because we have such great fellowship. God bless you.

  11. Pastor Steve, thank you for sharing your Godly inspired insight on your journey as our plodding pastor. You my feel like you are only plodding along, but for most of us at SGBC it is an exciting and on going blessing from Our Father God. How long we plod and how many come and join us is God’s work. “Many are called- but few are chosen.” Mathew 20:19. There are but a few who truly follow the Lamb.

  12. I am so thankful that you did keep on plodding because if you had not, only in prayer and preaching, your mother and your sister could still be floundering in fundamentalism with all the quilt inducing teaching that goes along with it. Thankyou for your faithfullnes to plodd. Just like the tortois and the hare, slow and steady wins the race.The name Steven means a crown which God has waiting for you.

  13. Pastor,
    It is comforting to hear that I’m not the only one that plods. Some churches Pteach the word to gain members, while other churchs preach that the way is narrow, which is what I believe. Keep plodding. I’ll see you in Heaven.
    Clois Hicks

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