Monday, February 22, 2016

Ministry success is more than nickels and noses

The message all around us is that bigger is better. When I owned a heating and air conditioning business I received at least one invitation each week to a seminar to teach me how to grow our business. As a pastor I got invitations to events that would tell me how to grow our church. There is certainly nothing wrong with growth, but ministry success cannot be measured by counting nickels and noses.

In my book The Bivocational Pastor: Two Jobs, One Ministry, I point out that such a definition of success will discourage most bivocational pastors. For many of us, significant growth in numbers may not happen for reasons beyond our control. Unfortunately, I have met too many bivocational ministers who have accepted some common myths about successful ministries. The ones I list in the book are from Ron Klassen and John Kessler's excellent book
No Little Places: The Untapped Potential of the Small-Town Church.
  1. To be successful, my ministry must be big.
  2. To be significant, my ministry must be in a big place.
  3. One measure of the significance of my ministry is how much recognition I receive for it.
  4. Career advancements are signs of a significant ministry.
Not only do such beliefs discourage a small church pastor, they are not biblical. I won't take the time to quote the better definitions of success I share in the book, but basically they have to do with understanding God's plan for our lives and seeking to fulfill that plan.
When Joshua was commissioned to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land God told him that if he would observe the laws of God he would have success. His success, and ours, has to do with our relationship with God. 

Man always wants to judge based on outward appearances so seeing regular increases in the number of people in our services and in our budgets would appear to be a measure of success. Again, I am not discounting healthy growth. But, God judges the heart. He is looking for people who are committed to knowing and doing His will for their lives. 

2 Chronicles 16:9 tells us "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him." There can be no greater measure of success than to enjoy God's favor on one's life and ministry.

There is a risk here that must be addressed. After reading this some people might become passive in ministry. Every person who enters the ministry should want his or her ministry to make a difference in the lives of others. We want to touch people's lives in significant ways. There is nothing wrong with developing a vision of what success in your ministry can look like and then develop a strategy for how you can achieve that. Just be sure your vision is appropriate for your church and your gifts. More importantly, be sure your vision is aligned with God's vision for your ministry. It is when those two visions are in alignment that you will experience maximum success.

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