Success . . . is it a good thing? Or not-so good? There is a significant debate about this within the church.
Most leaders have an innate drive to be successful. To achieve. The challenge is figuring out what success is. In many ways, how we define success defines us . . . our choices, our priorities, our relationships, etc. Today Jaime Hlavin brings clarity to what success is from Jesus’ point of view, and why it matters that we see it like He does. Enjoy ~ John
We are focusing a few weeks-worth of blog posts on the subject of success and what that means from the Christian leader’s perspective—more specifically, from a Kingdom of God perspective. Last week, John opened up regarding his own struggles regarding the perils of success.
Several years ago, I became well-acquainted with a particular organization focused on mentorship of young people in urban areas. The organization wasn’t flashy. It didn’t have the latest and greatest technology or social media. In fact, the long-time volunteers drove ancient school buses each and every Saturday to bring the elementary school students to the Children’s Center to participate in the program. During the week, those very same volunteers would canvas the neighborhoods on foot, knocking on the door of each and every child in the program—just to check in and build the relationship. It was a flashback to the “good old days.” The program operated just as it had when the Founder/Executive Director packed up his family and settled into the very neighborhood in which he ministered nearly 25 years prior.
My first prideful thought was, “Whoa. They could be so much more ‘successful’ if only they modernized ______________.”
But then I met the generations of “children”—now adults—who were first transported by those same school buses in those early days. They had become the leaders of the program. The trajectory of many of their lives and families’ lives had been forever changed by those “old school” practices. As more stories unfolded in the days and weeks to come, I humbly adjusted my ideas of success.
Church leaders compile lists upon lists of data measuring the success of their ministries. These lists include statistics that count everything imaginable in the church world:
- Number of regular attendees in comparison to official members.
- Weekly, monthly, and annual income.
- Missions and outreach giving.
- Number of viable campuses.
- Small group attendance.
- Number of individuals responding to altar-calls.
- Amount of people serving in ministries within church.
- Number of individuals participating in community outreach.
The list could go on.
Please, hear me: I’m not advocating for a complete lack of data tracking – knowing accurate financial data is crucial for good stewardship. And knowing serving and growth statistics in order to celebrate with your church body or ministry is beneficial for encouraging the believers to continue strong in their good works. I’m also not suggesting we scrap everything modern and go back in time. Tracking metrics and staying current are valuable. But we can get caught in the trap of calling such success “blessed.”
Perhaps leaders and pastors need to consider the Biblical viewpoint taught by Jesus in order to bring balance in our focus and gauging of “success” or what is considered “blessed” in our churches and organizations.
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus begins His Sermon on the Mount with a countercultural list of who He calls blessed.
“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
(Matthew 5:1-12 NIV)
When tracking the success of our organizations, churches, and ministries, let’s try using this passage from Matthew 5 as a guide:
- Poorness of spirit (the realization that in our own human capacity, we do not have what it takes; only Jesus can make up what we lack.)
- Mourning (true grief over the things that break God’s heart)
- Meekness (those who humbly do not use their power or position in unhealthy ways over others)
- Hunger and thirst for righteousness
- Purity of heart
- Suffering due to persecution as a result of upright living
Those that Jesus calls blessed remind me much of those who serve in the organization I mentioned at the beginning of this blog. As I became more acquainted with the inner workings and the people involved, I realized they truly exemplified God’s idea of success—or blessedness. Pure in heart . . . peacemakers . . . hungry and thirsty for righteousness . . . meek.
Readjusting the way we view success serves to protect us from falling into the perils that accompany striving for the things the world deems valuable. We serve a God who wants to bless us in unimaginable ways, and keep us safe at the same time.
Next week, I’ll dive a little more into another “secret to success” that I learned from this remarkable organization I’ve been talking about! In the meantime, can I encourage you to take a step back this week, and reflect on how your view of success might be influencing you? Impacting your family, and your health?
We’re rooting and praying for you!