Trying to figure out what makes ministry “successful” is always tricky business. Too often we try to determine our value based on what we would call “fruit”—or more crassly, baptisms and bums in seats. Healthy organisms grow, after all. Which is true… but so do unhealthy things. Cancerous cells spread to overcome their host. Weeds spread beyond our ability to keep up with them.
When we get too focused on the wrong things, particularly a wrong view of success, we risk going off-course. We need to get to where we think we’re “supposed” to go, and it consumes us. For most, it’s less a concern about doctrinal fidelity than about methodological consistency. More simply: we fall prey to the deadly snare of pragmatism.
This is why I so appreciate the corrective Jared Wilson offers in The Pastor’s Justification. He writes:
Don’t settle for the false heaven of a “successful ministry.” Because real success is faithfulness. Big or small church, growing church or declining church, well-known church or obscure church—all churches are epic successes full of the eternal, invincible quality of the kingdom of God when they treasure Jesus’s gospel and follow him. Jesus did not give the keys of the kingdom with the ability to bind and loose on both sids of the veil only to those who reached a certain attendance benchmark. So do well, pursue excellence, and stay faithful. God will give you what you ought to have according to his wisdom and riches. (37-38)
That, friends, is the perspective we need, regardless of our role in ministry or the size of the ministry God has called us to. Jesus frees us from the tyranny of growing attendance and giving, of gaining and maintaining “influence.” God gives you as much as you ought to have according to His wisdom—and that ought to be enough for us.