Last year I wrote a post about this topic under the heading of “An American Idol” (see February 19) and it was a big hit with readers of this blog…given that it was in the middle of the TV show American Idol season, it more than likely showed up in Google searches boosting the number of hits! ☺
At a recent pastor’s retreat I really appreciated the words of encouragement that were brought to the pastors by the speaker, Don Cousins. Don is a church consultant who used to work at the really big numbers place (Willow Creek) and shared what he has learned about how God measures success from his own personal journey. He noted that the only numerical indication of believers being added in the New Testament was on Pentecost and there are no indications as to how large the churches were to which Paul addressed letters. Cousins emphasized that pastors could become in bondage to a numerical and statistical approach to ministry. Possible downsides of this bondage include: pridefulness, discouragement, frustration leading to drivenness, compromise, comparison/competition with other pastors, and spiritual presumption – if numbers are most important, what about the growth of cults? He reminded pastors that it is God who causes the growth (Acts 2:47.)
He suggested four sets of questions to ask one’s self related to God’s view of “success”:
- Am I being faithful? (Matthew 25) Are you doing what God has called you to do? Does your gifting match your calling?
- Are you bearing fruit? Are you measuring influence or faithfulness? Are you taking back what belongs to God?
- Are you experiencing fulfillment? Are you “returning with joy” from ministry? (Luke 10:17) Is your “joy full”? (John 15:11) Are you joyful in fruitbearing?
- Are you making God famous? Are you a faithful steward of the grace of God? (I Peter 4:10.) Are you putting the generosity of God on display? Are we sharing the gifts he has given us?
As I heard and considered these words, I was struck by how appropriate they were to not only the pastors in attendance, but for all who work in ministry in Christian education, and so I share them with you. May you be encouraged – not by numbers, but by God’s definition of success.