Friday, February 15, 2008

Missional Manifesto IV

What are the criteria for "success"?

If the focus is not on results, then how do we measure success? We certainly cannot measure it according to the standards of the business world.

The lure of success is seductive. Its siren song causes many people to uncritically ascribe so much authority to high-profile leaders, platform speakers and megachurch pastors…. In American measurement, Jesus' human life was a failure because it ended in the shame and disgrace on a cross with all his followers abandoning him.

Brian J. Dodd, Empowered Church Leadership, p. 11

When numerical growth is taken as the criterion of judgment on the church, we are transported with alarming ease into the world of the military campaign or the commercial sales drive.

Leslie Newbigin, The Open Secret, p. 127

The fruit of effective ministry should first of all be evident in the life of the minister.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22–23).

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a high-profile leader in the Church is generally not peace, patience, kindness or gentleness. In fact, these qualities are often lacking.

Christians are routinely taught by example and word that it is more important to be right… than it is to be Christlike. In fact, being right licenses you to be mean, and, indeed, requires you to be mean—righteously mean, of course.

Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart, p. 238

What matters is not what we are doing and how much we are accomplishing but the kingdom character with which we conduct our business and how we treat people in the process.

Brian J. Dodd, Empowered Church Leadership, pp. 101-102.

The other measure of "success" is faithfulness.

There is no room either for anxiety about our failure or for boasting about our success. There is room only for faithful witness to the one in whom the whole purpose of God for cosmic history has been revealed and effected, the crucified, risen, and regnant Christ.

Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, p. 125

But what about the situations where nothing seems to be happening?

For those who lead and reason "in the flesh," suffering is a sign that something is wrong, that something is failing, that we should go in a different direction.… For those who learn to lead in the Spirit, we come to recognize that suffering and struggle are often signs that we are on the right road, that we are heading in the right direction, that we are kicking a dent in the darkness.

Brian J. Dodd, Empowered Church Leadership, p. 66.

"Failure," rather than being a sign that something is wrong, can be an asset.

If we are not very successful in ministry, in whatever way we measure success, then God does not have a hard time getting us out of the way. . . . The burdens of office may have become so heavy that we welcome being bumped aside by Jesus.

Andrew Purves, The Crucifixion of Ministry, p. 25

Suffering is not the enemy of ministry. It is through suffering and weakness and "defeat" that God accomplished his victory in Jesus Christ. God does not work in spite of our weakness. He works through our weakness.

The way of the cross sometimes leads us into those places where all we can do is hold on. We can't see our way forward, we are confused that God isn't doing what we expect, and we can't see any meaning for all the pain and frustration.

Allen Mitsuo Wakabayashi, Kingdom Come, p. 170

We must always do what we know is right and true before God even if it doesn't seem as if it produces results.

Allen Mitsuo Wakabayashi, Kingdom Come, p. 172

We must never forget that the path of the cross lead to and through the darkness of death, not around it. Yet the God that we follow is the God of resurrection. We must hang on and stay faithful for as long as it takes.

Allen Mitsuo Wakabayashi, Kingdom Come, p. 173

Faithfulness is not a dodge to avoid responsibility. Faithfulness is not a cover for laziness. Faithfulness is not taking the easy way out.

There is a world of difference between being productive and being fruitful, between striving to build Christ's church and allowing Christ to build his church through you.

Stephen Seamands, Ministry in the Image of God, p. 92

When faithfulness is replaced with mere success, we have failed in our obligation to our Lord.

Pastor Rod

"Helping You Become the Person God Created You to Be"


grace said...

Awesome post!
Exactly what I needed to hear today.
Thank you.

daniel the smith said...

I always feel it necessary to supply a caveat when I hear a thing like this, because I never heard it growing up (replace "suffer" with "martyr" or something to get the whole effect):

If one *looks* for suffering, one is very likely to find it; but that's not what is being talked about and is a very negative behavior.

Pastor Rod said...


I'm glad you found this post helpful. Nice feet!


Pastor Rod said...


I'm pretty sure I understand what you're referring to, but I'd like you to explain it in a little more detail if you would.



daniel the smith said...

I think "perverse incentive" is the term that can apply; for example,

Say a sermon at Johnny's church is on how good Christians endure persecution.

Johnny isn't facing any at the moment; Johnny wants to be a good Christian, and figures that he must be doing something wrong. So Johnny decides to get "more serious" and gets some Chick Tracts, and gives them to some people. This (quite understandably) ticks a good amount of those people off, and Johnny interprets their reactions as persecution and supposes he must be doing a better job.

In effect, Johnny has learned that he needs to be more obnoxious, though of course he doesn't realize that consciously. It feels hard for him at first because subconsciously he knows it's wrong to be obnoxious, but he is convinced he needs to be a better Christian and that he won't wimp out when God wants him to do hard things.

This is sorta what I mean. Substitute persecution with suffering or opposition or a number of other words.

I suppose when I say it like that it doesn't sound very plausible. But when I was Johnny's age...

And, obviously, I hope, I don't think you're saying that in this post. :)

Pastor Rod said...


That's pretty much what I was sure that you meant. However, it's better if you explain it instead of me trying to and getting it wrong.

Yes, I understood that you were not accusing me of doing that.

I understand exactly what you are concerned about. And it is a real concern.