Before you break out the mission statement, ministry tag-line or branded sound-bite, let’s look past today’s pundits’ and consultants’ definition of success.
Let’s see what the “Owner’s Manual” has to say about success. After all, if we are a Christian ministry, or simply Christians ministering, we should understand what the Bible has to say about success.
The New International Version has only a couple dozen occurrences of the word “success” (a few dozen more if we add “successor,” “successive,” etc.), and all of them are in the Old Testament.
When success is the subject of the verse, we see two distinct patterns. First, success is something that comes from the Lord, like Nehemiah 2:20: “I answered them by saying, ‘The God of heaven will give us success...’” Second, success is a reward for partnering/cooperating with the Lord, like we find in 2 Chronicles 26:5b: “As long as [King Uzziah] sought the LORD, God gave him success.”
Notice also that success noted in the examples above can be both corporate (“give us”) and individual (“gave him”). And again, success is noted as a gift from the Lord.
Although the New Testament has no direct references to “success,” there are two themes that seem to indicate success among believers. These two, like the Old Testament references, are indicative of working and receiving from God.
1. Faithfulness. In 1 Corinthians 4:2, the Apostle Paul explains, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” Our Lord asks us to be full of faith, particularly faith He will accomplish what He desires, both in and through us.
2. Fruitfulness. In the Gospel of John (15:8), Jesus states, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” Fruit, ostensibly good fruit, is also an indicator of our relationship to God and our faith in Him. We were created for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10) that bring glory to Him and advance His kingdom (in our hearts and elsewhere).
So, in our work today, success is more than any “outcome” (that word only shows up once... in The Message) related to our mission. Positive outcomes are excellent and to be celebrated as one measure of success. But as both ministers and ministries, our success must include faithfulness to the mission—even in the face of opposition—and fruitfulness where we count the victories of those who embrace life, and life everlasting.
As you take stock of the year just past, look back a little further. Rick Warren says we “overestimate what we can accomplish in a day, and yet underestimate what we can do in a decade.”
Look back over the last decade (or more) as a minister and a ministry, and celebrate the success of faithfulness and fruitfulness.