What is Success in Ministry?
Well, hello friend! It has been some time since my last blog, I apologize. I have been doing a lot of studying, reading, and art! But, the most important thing I have been doing, is gaining a more biblical perspective on ministry. Sometimes, we start to lose our momentum when we go at a break-neck pace for too long. It is always good to slow down long enough to gain new perspective on life and ministry in general. Coming back to writing is always a struggle because, what do I share? I have learned so many valuable things in the past few months, how do I choose just one topic? As I struggled through this dilemma, I kept coming back to “success in ministry.”
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What is success in ministry?
To me, it was growth. It was having people’s hearts changed because of the Gospel’s message. It was building community and trust, striving for unity within the church. It was serving others and speaking truth in love. It was developing disciples. It was improving the look and feel of the church. It was filling the seats in the sanctuary each weekend. It was seeing a change in people around me, and seeing growth in my own, and others’ lives. It was going the extra mile to produce things that were excellent. It was SO many different things!
Yet, as I usually do, I complicate things.
I am an avid watcher of The Office, and there is a quote in which the character Michael Scott says, “I’m going to make this way harder than it needs to be.”
God has called me to ministry, but He has not placed all these responsibilities on me. Let’s look at what He has asked of us, each in our own walk as Christians.
Not once in the Bible does God call us to be a success in ministry, yet He does link the act of faithfulness to success. Although, this is not worldly success as we know it, it is Godly success. The calling God puts on our lives is to be faithful to Him. And faithfulness is in reach, no matter what your personal ministry looks like!
It is so easy to fall into the restrictions of worldly success that will make us feel inadequate, unsuccessful and inevitably, like a failure. We have been raised in a culture that praises numbers, wealth, and achievement, based on our personal efforts. We see others around us who have led successful lives in that they have a great education, a high paying job, and material possessions we would love to have… and in seeing this we feel jealous, and inadequate in our own success with life.
This my friends, is a lie from the enemy. He is stealing our joy, our desire to please God, our motivation to be faithful, and replacing them with idols, jealousy, depression, and the world.
We have a hard time understanding that in achieving the ability to be faithful to God, He then can do mighty things in His ministry! We get it wrong when we refer to His ministry as “our ministry,” when the reality is… it is God’s ministry, and God has placed Christ “as the head over all things to the church.” (Ephesians 1:22)
We see in Ephesians 5:23, Paul speaks of Christ being the head of the church, and He Himself being the Savior of the body (us). You see… Christ has the responsibility of saving and changing lives… He is the only way to salvation. Not our lead pastor, not our youth pastor, or our church in general. It is our faithfulness to our belief in Christ, that allows Him to change the world through our interaction with the world. In John 20:21, Jesus says, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
Now that we know we are not responsible for the salvation of others, let’s look at what our responsibilities as a Christian really are. To start, we will look at the Great Commission. As an artist, I have had the honor of being commissioned to do a variety of different artworks. Each commission is specific and based on the desire of the client. We know Christ’s desire is that the world would return to it’s original plan. So, let’s see what He commands us to do as Christians to fulfill that Commission. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Let’s simplify this Commission through each command:
1. Go- be actively perusing, consistent, and faithful to the mission
2. Make disciples of all nations- spread the knowledge across the world by example
3. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit- spiritual cleansing and submission is necessary in the mission of salvation
4. Teach them to observe all that He has commanded- teach/preach the Word- specifically the life of Jesus
These are pretty specific commands given to us by the Head of our Church, Jesus. I would like to point out that the first command has a lot to do with being faithful. It is our faithfulness to Christ that motivates us to “Go.” Priorities in life are driven by desire. When we desire Jesus, His teaching, and His mission to be accomplished… we inevitably “Go,” and in turn are being faithful to His call on our lives.
What does faithfulness have to do with success?
I am reminded of an image of a ballerina’s feet, one foot with the pretty pink slipper tied with ribbon on pointed toe, the other next to it bare, with bruises, bandages, cuts, mangled toes, and the quote says, “Everyone wants to be successful. Until they see what it actually takes.”
In the world, those who are successful by the worldly meaning have stuck with it! The effort, the time, the commitment was not easy, but they stuck with it. I am sure there were times that they had to lay their selfish desires aside, to stay up late, and work on that project… to study or practice until it was necessary to achieve the results they desired.
As success in ministry can be similar because it does take effort on our part as Christians… the difference is that in ministry the end result, is not what defines success as it does in the world. It is the process of being obedient through it, which determines how faithful we truly are. For example, the number of members at the church is not what God sees as success or failure in a lead pastor… how He gauges success is how much that pastor relied on Him the whole time he was active in ministry, whether or not the numbers increased.
This is a struggle most ministers have in their ministries. It is so hard to be faithful when you see the pastor down the road growing to the thousands while you struggle to keep the doors open. When a pastor is pouring everything he has into the ministry, yet no fruit is produced, he will inevitably feel like a failure.
We see throughout scripture that some of God’s most beloved were not as fruitful as they would have liked to be in their ministry. We will focus today on one named Jeremiah. Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet. When you read through Jeremiah, you can understand why! He had the grueling task of prophesying death and destruction over the sinful and corrupt people of Judah for 40 + years! There were many moments in Jeremiah’s ministry when he felt like a failure. In the end his pleading did not change the hearts of the people of Judah. He pleaded with them for years to change their ways… he even pleaded with God to have mercy on them. He didn’t have one convert. And on top of that he was beaten, put in the stocks, a laughing stock to the people, thrown out of the temple, despised and ridiculed by men. Even his life ended in a gruesome stoning. But, the reason God loved Jeremiah so much, and considered him faithful, was not because of the number of people he had or had not converted… God considered him a good and faithful servant because he didn’t waver from the Lord, even through the storms.
One of my favorite examples of this was in Jeremiah Chapter 20, Jeremiah had prophesied in the temple the doom and gloom over the city of Judah. Since this went against what the prophets and priests of the temple were preaching, he was “behaving badly” according to the chief priest, Pashhur, and was beaten and put in the stocks for a day in the middle of the town, right next to the temple. The chief priest had him released the next day, and when he was brought before the priest, Jeremiah with the confidence of God, began to prophesy death in the hands of the Babylonians (their captors) over Pashhur and his household.
That my friends is obedience, confidence in God, consistency, and faithfulness.
Jeremiah may not have reaped the rewards of his faithfulness here on earth, but we can rest assured that he is now in heaven.
In the parable of the Talents, in Matthew 25, we see that Jesus is teaching his disciples that when we are faithful over a little, we will be set over much. We will also take notice that in verse 23, the master says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” He did not say well done, my successful and rich master… he was showing that the Lord isn’t bothered with the numbers or the worldly success of the matter, but instead with the matter of the heart.
So what is our take away today? What can you apply from this to your daily life as a Christian?
My hope, is that we would consider our present definition of success and compare that to our knowledge of what God sees as success. When doing this, we should be able to tweak our foundational views on success in ministry and in turn, grow our faithfulness to the Lord and to Christ’s church.
The next couple blogs, will give us some applicable ways to understand faithfulness, and what actions we as Christians can take to ensure we are a success in God’s eyes. So, make sure you subscribe below so you don’t miss out on the upcoming blogs.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read through my heart today. I hope you were blessed by these words, and I pray that this helped you in your walk with Christ.
Blessings to you!