Friday, January 2, 2015

'Successful' or 'Unsuccessful'?

It’s January 2, 2015 and I am pretty sure I should write something provocative or insightful or philosophical about looking back on 2014 or starting 2015…but I am not.  I guess I am a ‘rule breaker’ from way back!  After pondering my last post (why do I seem to continually write about comparing myself?? I then proceeded to beat myself up for not being creative and yet, at the same time, congratulated myself for at least being consistent) I was bothered by some things I said and feel the need to clear them up.  First bother bother coming up.

I mentioned something about my friend’s husband having a ‘successful’ ministry.  For some reason I have not been able to get this off of my mind.  Why in the world would I say something like that?  Does that mean there are ‘unsuccessful’ ministries?  If so, how are ‘successful’ or ‘unsuccessful’ ministries defined? 

Normally the SBC takes ‘inventory’ using the numbers that churches send in to their state offices at the end of the year.  (Oh yes!!  Here it is!  I can actually tie in the new year after all!!)  Typically, on a regular basis, churches track the number of baptisms, Sunday school attendance, church attendance, new members, etc. to see ‘how they are doing’.  Often bar charts or pie charts are made using Excel (which I love, by the way) and discussions follow around office desks or conference tables or coffee shops analyzing what the numbers say.  "Oh look! We had a 'successful' year!"  On the other hand, perhaps the numbers cause us to be discouraged and even doubt our purpose.

Perhaps, without even realizing it we define how 'successful' or 'unsuccessful' our ministries are by the number of new members we have (or don’t have), the number of people who leave the church, the number of ________ ________ _____(you can fill in the blanks). Those are all important statistics but do they determine if a ministry is ‘successful’? 

If we are not careful we can find ourselves putting labels on our ministries:  SUCCESSFUL (then pride sets in)! UNSUCCESSFUL (then discouragement sets in)!  My friend, it is not our job to do that.  God’s ways are not our ways.  His Word does not return void.  We cannot always see into the hearts of those we are counting for reports. 

Forgive me Lord for labeling our ministry as either ‘successful’ (and being prideful) or ‘unsuccessful’ (and being discouraged).  Help us to keep our eyes and heart and mind on You...when we fail may we fall to our knees in repentance and help us to define failure by Your word not statistics or what other people say or think or how we feel. We are successful in Your eyes because of Christ!!  In Jesus' name....amen!!

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