Friday, February 26, 2010

#6. How do you define success?

This question is for church people....Pastors, Leaders, Elders, Members. If you are not a church person, keep reading...I'd love to hear your thoughts on this discussion. I grew up in church and, since I can remember, the identity of my church was always attached directly to the amount of people in the building AND the size of that building. Now if I ask any evangelical American pastor, "How do you define success in your church?" the answers will probably be predictable. Any well intentioned church leader is going to blurt out a rote answer like "the transformation of lives" or "discipleship and the development of passionate Christ followers." Good answers [I hope they're true!], but let's be honest...the real answer is NUMBERS. As a pastor your life is wrapped around those empty spaces in the parking lot on Sunday morning, or the lack thereof. It's where encouragement comes from. As leaders you talk about how "Awesome the worship was last Sunday!" coincidentally, "last Sunday" just so happened to be the largest gathering of the year. Sound familiar?

It's happening all over the country, and sometimes even in my own church. We say we are about the things of God and his Kingdom in our community throughout the week, but we put the majority of our time and money into 1 hour on Sunday [see question #4].

One of my new favorite people is a guy named Dave Gibbons. He asked 1200 pastors this same question last Tuesday morning while he drew the above diagram. He wants to re-define success. So do I. Maybe success should be less about Sunday morning and more about Monday-Saturday. Maybe success should be less about the number of people in your pews and more about the number of foster children and orphans who still need families in your city. Maybe success should be defined by a shrinking crime rate or the elimination of poverty. How do you define success? What's your answer?


  1. Good Question! Success is a crazy word. Hey speaking of Church size, check out this article "How to shrink a church":

  2. I like this post. And I agree that church, and especially a missional church, is one who lives out into the community and not just in the building on sunday mornings. So I pray that our churches are informing the congregation that they are missionaries within their community and church isn't a please me/entertain me thing on sunday.

    Now as to define success...I have heard that Pastors preach that success is being obedient to God. That how faithful you are to God determines your success. However, I agree with this partially since it raises the question of is this all out of duty that we should pursue obedience, not joy"?

    My answer goes something like this: That's like saying we should pursue fruit, not apples. That's because obedience simply means doing what you are told, and God tells you, "Delight yourself in the Lord." You can't choose between duty and delight if duty is your delight or delight is your duty. You can't choose them.

    It's a false dichotomy. It's a category confusion. Category confusions cause all kinds of problems in philosophy. And one of them is, "You should go for obedience, not joy," when, in fact, we are commanded by the God we should obey to be happy in him all over the Bible.

    Therefore, I believe that when as believers we truly treasure Christ and He is our joy then out of great love we do everything we possibly can to bring Him all the glory and honor and praise. If we can fight for this and have a single passion for Christ to be our joy so that he is most glorified then to me thats biblical success, which causes you to forget about the mere insignificant stuff like buildings, money, and power.