To this day I struggle with the feeling of under-performing.

When I was in fifth grade I got cut from my middle school basketball team. I was devastated by the news that left me at home many nights and weekends while my buddies traveled together to play different schools. I had under-performed in tryouts and, as a result, was left out of the inner circle of friends I ran with from elementary. In the same way as an adult, I feel like if I do not perform as a pastor or missional community leader, I will once again be left behind, missing out on the life that “winners” get to experience, a life of victory, popularity, and great success.

We all want to be winners. We want to be successful in whatever we do, making the most of the opportunities we have been given.

This is one of the reasons ministry is hard. There are seasons where missional community members bail, people complain, baptism waters remain empty, and the church stops growing. It is in these seasons we can be tempted to throw in the towel because it is in these seasons we feel like anything but winners.

It is easy to feel like a failure in the ministry, but is it possible that our definition of success and God’s definition are two totally different things? Is it possible that in His eyes you can be winning even when you feel like you are losing? Is there a chance that maybe what you see as a failure God sees as a success?

When it comes to the church in West we often measures success through the ABCs: attendance, budgets, and conversions. Is this what God considers to be the win? When we look at Jesus’ life I believe we see something different. We see that success in ministry does not mean:

  • Never losing followers
  • Everyone understanding and liking us
  • Getting great, quick results every time
  • Building a church the world is impressed with
  • Compiling lots of cash
  • Leading a group full of people who “get it”
  • Things turning out exactly the way we planned
  • Eliminating messes

As great as all of these things are, they didn’t mark the life of Christ. Therefore we can conclude that despite what the world may say, it is not necessary for our lives to be marked by these things if we are going to be considered a success. If this is true, how then do we define success in ministry?

Success, according to Pete Schazzero, is being faithful to what God has called us to do.

It’s understanding how what you know (head), what you are good at (hands), and what you want to do (heart) all come together for the good of others and the glory of God.

This takes time to discover, but as my mentor Richard Plass says, “You don’t have to be in a hurry to get there; you just have to be willing.”

So before you throw in the towel or begin to believe the lie that you are a massive failure in the ministry, take time to consider what success really means for you. Let Jesus name the win, trusting that His definition supersedes any other way we have defined it or let others define it for us.

Are you allowing Jesus to define success in ministry for you?

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