Thursday, January 19, 2017

Does success bring happiness in ministry?

If success brought happiness then every time someone achieves a goal he or she should be happy. However, we know in the real world that is not always true. We may be happy about the momentary success, but it doesn't last. As soon as we come down from the temporary high our work and problems are staring us in the face. And, as Shawn Achor points out in his book, The Happiness Advantage, "With each victory, our goalposts of success keep getting pushed further and further out, so that happiness gets pushed over the horizon."

Achor has done extensive research on happiness and its impact on one's life and achievements. This research has shown that the common belief that success brings happiness is not true. In fact, the reverse is true. Happiness gives us the edge we need to achieve greater results in our endeavors. As Achor demonstrates, our brains are hardwired to perform best when they are filled with positive emotions such as happiness.

Not only do our emotions affect our own success, they also have an impact on those around us. Emotions leak. If we spend time around negative, unhappy people we are apt to find our own thinking to become negative and toxic. If we are the negative ones we are impacting those around us, co-workers, family, friends, with that same toxicity. Soon, our entire family or work force may begin to reflect our negativity in what they do spreading it even further.

Achor's studies have much to say to those of us in ministerial leadership. I've sat in on many pastor gatherings that were filled with frustration and anger with much of that negativity directed towards the congregations they were leading. I've visited worship services where the pastor lashed out at the congregation and then wondered why the church was declining and the ones who remained were not more involved in ministry. Speaking with one of the most committed Christians I've known after one such service, she told me this was a weekly occurrence, and after attending that church for years they were actively seeking another place to worship.

After 35 years in ministry I know how frustrating it can be. But, if we can't be excited about being called by God to serve a congregation I'm not sure what can excite us. If we can't feel hope for our congregation and see an exciting future for it, then there is no way anyone else will. Quite frankly, some pastors need to leave the ministry if they are unable to recapture the earlier excitement they felt when they began.

If you're miserable in the ministry I encourage you to read Achor's book. If he doesn't convince you that leaders must maintain a positive attitude if they want to influence those they are serving, then maybe it is time for you leave your church. They don't need their pastor spreading his or her toxicity around the congregation. But, if you read this book and become determined to recapture that earlier joy and excitement you once felt in the ministry you can enjoy a very rewarding ministry. Pray and ask God to help you once again find the happiness you once knew in ministry. That's a prayer He'll be glad to answer, and you'll be glad He did.

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