Measuring Success in Ministry

Western Christianity has been heavily influenced by a performance-based, bottom-line, scorecard mentality. We want results that are measurable. Therefore bodies, bricks and budgets often become the default position for measuring success. While these may be positive indicators, they certainly don’t quantify biblical success.

The closest definition for measuring success can be gleaned from God’s charge to Joshua: “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8).

In essence, God was giving a holistic mandate of knowing (head), meditating (heart) and obeying (hands). It is clear to me that God is emphasizing faithfulness as the key to success, not bottom lines. But let me expand on the centerpiece of this mandate, which I believe is sadly lacking in evangelical Christianity: meditation.

Meditation is the vertical piece of this process, where transformation takes place. After all, we can know and obey without communing with God. All of that knowing and obeying might impress others, who look at the outward appearance, but God is measuring our heart (1 Samuel 16:6,7).

After battling the success syndrome in my own life as a senior pastor for 24 years, I had to discover the value of this holistic approach to success. Performance-based pastoring was hard to shake. Impressing others and meeting their expectations was a slippery slope.

I discovered that the missing link was the middle piece that I mentioned earlier. I was good at knowing and doing, but in being I often came up short. When I learned to nurture my intimacy with the Lord, the triad became complete, and pressure to rack up the results became far less significant.

If we can approach our life and ministry with this holistic mandate in mind, we can rest in God’s promise that He will take care of the results. I believe that it is such faithfulness on our part—not our measurable results—that will bring God’s coveted blessing: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

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