by | Jun 22, 2023 | Leadership, Ministry Leader, Pastor, Success

Today we welcome Craig Owens to the blog! Craig is a pastor, author, and a friend. Today’s post helps leaders get their arms around the pesky subject of success. Enjoy ~ John.


There are no shortage of books that define “success” in our business or ministry endeavors, but as Christians, let’s try to get a more precise definition—a biblical definition.


I did a quick search for the words “success” or “successful” in just the New International Version of the Bible, and I was somewhat surprised by two things. First of all, the relatively few times this word is used: Only 25 times in the entire Scripture. We read of prayers offered for a successful journey, or a king’s reign, or a building project; success that comes to someone because of God’s favor on their life; success in battle; success in a king’s reign.


The second thing that surprised me: The word “success” isn’t used in the New Testament. The reason this surprised me is because without there being even a close second, Jesus has to be the most successful person who ever walked this planet. No one ever taught like He did, performed the miracles He did, or willingly laid down His life and was resurrected like He was. And yet the word “success” is never attached to His life.


This means we are left to draw some Holy Spirit-illuminated inferences from the Bible on how to define success. You may ask, “Why do we even need to know what ‘success’ is?” I would say we need a biblical definition for success to avoid the inevitable feelings of failure that come if things aren’t going as well as we thought they should.


In business, we often define success as revenue growth or a healthy net profit. In ministry, we typically measure success by church attendance, the number of people launched into ministry, or the amount of money given to missions work.


But what happens if we apply these metrics to the work Jesus did while He was on earth? We see His disciples fretting over not having enough money to buy food for the congregation, and Jesus mentioning He often didn’t have a bed to sleep in, or the fact that Jesus only had one set of clothes. As a businessman, Jesus wouldn’t be considered successful by any current metrics. Even as a ministry leader, the congregation that gathered after Jesus was resurrected back to life only numbered 120 people. So, if we consider Jesus as pastor, His church wasn’t exactly thriving according to modern metrics.


After Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and his sermon following the healing of the lame man (Acts 3), we don’t hear much about quantitative growth throughout the rest of the Book of Acts. But in the balance of the Book of Acts, in the teachings of Jesus, and in the instructions in the epistles, we do hear substantially more about qualitative growth.


I think the clear message is that qualitative metrics are much more important to God than quantitative measurements. Specifically, I think we see the emphasis on two important qualities for godly leaders: faithfulness and excellence.


Solomon wrote, “Whatever you do, do well” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NLT), and Paul told us, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV). These things tell us that our best effort is always required—no cutting corners, no half-measures, no bare-minimum effort. Instead, we should always do the best that we can, always striving for excellence.


My Grandma drilled a poem into my memory whenever I wanted to stop at “good enough.” She would say:


Good, better, best

Never let it rest.

Until your good is better

And your better is best.


How long do we do this excellent work? Until our Master returns.


Jesus said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns” (Luke 12:42-43 NIV).


Our devotion to these qualitative metrics of faithfulness and excellence can only truly be judged by listening to the Holy Spirit each day. He alone can speak to each of our hearts about our level of excellence and faithfulness for that day. He alone can help us know what true success is. We need to listen to His voice so that we don’t get distracted, disillusioned, and possibly even derailed by trying to measure up to others’ quantitative metrics of success.


After all, ultimate success for any leader is to hear the applause from nail-scarred hands as our Master says, “Well done—excellently and faithfully done—my good and faithful servant!”


I can think of no better definition of success.


Cheering for you,




Craig T. Owens pastors in Cedar Springs, MI. He blogs at and is the author of Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter.