Freedom from the Tyranny of “Success”

Freedom from the Tyranny of “Success”

Faithfulness is obedience—obedience to God’s commands, calling, and gifting—and obedience is success. That means that you may not be the most gifted teacher, you’re the right teacher for your church at this moment. Even though you may not be the greatest evangelist in the world, but you’re the person to share the gospel with your neighbor. And although you may not have much to offer by the world’s standards, but what you do have, you give joyfully.

Some time ago, a friend shared an announcement that he was writing a book for a well-respected publisher. I was, of course, excited—but I was also a little jealous. It was foolish and unnecessary, of course, but it was there. When I should have been fully celebrating my friend’s good fortune, I was wondering why I wasn’t experiencing the same.1

I know I’m not alone in this. All of us have moments where we don’t respond to God’s blessings to others in the way we would want or expect, whether His blessings to an individual, to an organization, or a church. We start to play comparison games, even if only in our heads. We start to wonder why this person or that church is more successful than us.

And there’s the problem: Success.

What does that even mean? What does success look like, especially in the context of ministry?

False Measures of Success

There are two primary ways we define success as Christians, especially when it comes to ministry:

  • “Orthodoxy.” Success in this sense is defined by our right beliefs. That if we’re consistently proclaiming and teaching truth, then we’re being successful.
  • Fruitfulness. Perhaps it’s because of how 1980s business culture affected overall leadership culture, but the most common way we measure success is by the numbers: attendance, giving, baptisms, professions of faith, and so forth.

But here’s the problem: it’s possible to be orthodox in word, but convey that truth in a way that undermines it. To be arrogant and belligerent, and mistake people being repulsed by your behavior as their rejection of the Lord. And I know, because I’ve been that guy on occasion, a “jerk for Jesus” wielding my Mighty Theological Hammer of Justice™, ready to smash any and all apparent heresies that might lure away an unsuspecting believer. (It’s not a good look.)

Unfortunately, fruitfulness also falls short as well, at least in the way that we define it.

Read More

Scroll to top