Re-thinking Success

“If you know you are the Beloved, you can live with an enormous amount of success and an enormous amount of failure without losing your identity. Because your identity is that you are the Beloved… the question becomes ‘Can I live a life of faith in the world and trust that it will bear fruit?’” –Henri Nouwen

Recently I read a letter that I have not been able to get off my mind.  It was written by a pastor to the editor of a Christian magazine and it said, “I retired a year ago from one of several consecutive positions as associate or senior pastor.  I retired not because I didn’t love the people, the missions, the act of preaching and the way weekly preaching shaped me…No, it was because I was never able to navigate through the expectations of my church, both at the local level and from the hierarchy, that I would attract more and more money and bring in more and more members.

“By the time I decided to retire, these two components of ministry became the only validations of effective ministry in my denomination.  Conducting ministry by such a method was mind-numbing and soul-draining.  I tried my best, and in the end I left.  Today I guest preach and lead retreats only occasionally.  Mostly I spend my time in utter joy, compiling my journal entries and letters from my first year as a solo pastor in England.  At long last, I have time to reflect.”

“Never Quite Sure if I’m Measuring Up”

This pastor is not alone in the experience of being driven from ministry by false measures of success. In Pastors at Greater Risk, H.B. London Jr. and Dr. Neil B. Wiseman state that 45.5% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry. It would be naive to think that this large percentage does not include some of the brightest, most inspiring pastors in the country.

Not surprisingly, several of the top reasons pastors leave ministry too soon have to do with discouragement and a sense of failure around how they measure success, how they compare themselves to other pastors and ministries, and how those around them measure success and critique them on that basis.

Even leadership conferences, which are designed to be helpful and empowering, can contribute to this sense of not measuring up.  As one young pastor shared with me, “I find leadership conferences to be very exciting on one level but there is something darker that happens as well.  Sometimes they leave me feeling competitive towards other churches and what they are accomplishing.  I leave the conference feeling dissatisfied with my own situation—my own staff, my own resources, my own gifts and abilities.  My ego gets ramped up to do bigger and better things and then I go home and drive everyone crazy.  Three months later, the conference notebook is on a bookshelf somewhere and I have returned to life as usual with a vague feeling of uneasiness about my effectiveness as a leader, never quite sure if I am measuring up.”

Great Expectations

I suppose clergy and Christian ministry leaders have always been subject to the subtle temptations of the ego as it relates to the call to ministry, but there are aspects of this phenomenon that seem to have their own unique expression in our day.  When I was growing up as a pastor’s kid my dad’s responsibilities as a pastor were, in some ways, very simple.  He preached on Sundays and in some cases Wednesday evenings.  He visited the sick and counseled those in need of pastoral care.  He sat with the elders and they made decisions together regarding the ministries and business aspects of the church.  That was about it and that was enough!

These days, however, the pastoral/ministry role is much more complicated than that.  Now, in addition to those basic responsibilities, many are expected to function like CEO’s of large corporations.  They are expected to be strategic thinkers and planners.  They are expected to be good managers. They are expected to preach sermons that are culturally relevant and contribute expertise and innovative ideas regarding production and programming.   They are expected to lead fundraisers and capital campaigns.  They are expected to be skilled at interpersonal relating but also command the attention (or draw the attention) of large crowds. Such expectations can create inner confusion about what true success really is.

Faithfulness that Leads to Fruitfulness

Just to be clear: I am not advocating mediocrity, lack of excellence or laziness in ministry.  Anyone who works closely with me knows that I have my own issues with perfectionism and the drive for excellence; in fact, on days when I don’t keep that part of my personality in check, it can make us all crazy.

But I also know that there is a difference between valuing excellence—the quest for beauty, accuracy, and effectiveness—and allowing the outcomes of all that to define me and us and our success. It is a difference we do well to pay attention to.

I am convinced that one of the things we can do to save our souls in ministry is to re-think our definition of success and to be vigilant in rejecting the subtle seductions of the ego in this regard.  Mother Theresa’s perspective helps me to stay grounded in the deepest truth about what success really is; it rescues me from my own inner strivings when I need rescuing. She says,

I was never called to be successful;
I was called to be faithful
and in my striving to be faithful
my life will be fruitful

and because it is fruitful
you could say I am successful.”

Amen and amen!

©Ruth Haley Barton, 2012. Not to be used without permission.

Ruth Haley Barton

Ruth (Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is Founder and Chief Essence Officer of the Transforming Center. A teacher, seasoned spiritual director (Shalem Institute), and retreat leader, Ruth is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, Life Together in Christ, Pursuing God’s Will Together, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Invitation to Retreat, and Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest (Oct 2022).
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Immeasurable, the fruit of ministry is immeasurable. Using numbers to determine effectiveness is insufficient for the divine work of the Holy Spirit to reach people in the very place they are in need.

So sad that pastoral ministry has devolved into these kinds of measures of success. Pastors have the potential to be the most effective leaders and inspiriters of personal and social change in the world when they are left with the time, energy and resources to carry out the mission they are called to. Alas, the pressures to conform to societal definitions of ‘success’ result in rendering them burned-out and dispirited in spite of the glorious vocation to which they have been called.

I do love this. I’m afraid it is a lesson that God had to teach me with supernatural patience.

What He has gotten through to me, at long last, is that my success is my obedience. I’ve written and self-published two books in the last three years, but sales were minimal. In both cases, I felt He was saying to me, “Sales aren’t your concern. Your concern is that you do what I’ve asked. That is what success is.”

Then, I told a room of men that I was going to host what I called an Hour of Silence… and two men showed up, although many had voiced interest. It was as I saw in that silence that He broke through more than ever. The evening, He pointed out, was a success, because I had done what He had asked.

A couple weeks ago I hosted a spiritual retreat–a day in which I talked briefly about 6 different disciplines for 2 to 5 minutes, launched the group around the property to practice it on their own, then called them all back to discuss what the Lord had done. For the first time in my life, I think, I had not a hint of concern as to how many people had shown up. Somehow it had finally gotten through–do what He asks of you, and you are “successful.”

Thank you for this writing.

Love this! What I am struck with as I read this is that this sounds like freedom–freedom from the tyranny of seeking “success” by outward measurements in favor of freedom for simply seeking to be faithful. A person who is free like that is free indeed!

To think that God will not hold us to high standards because we are his beloved is a lie but we are not loved more because of our hardworking. Our belovedness remains in our knowing he is faithful he who began a good work in us. His faithfulness leads us to be faithful. Blessings.

You are Amazing women God blessing you

Wow … thanks so much for the post and all the comments. For the past several days, I’ve been reviewing and revising my Rule of Life, and I keep being drawn back to the desire of knowing that I am God’s beloved and finding security in that divine love and approval. I’m grateful to realize this foundational desire in my soul; and I also realize how easily I fall back into the competing desire to be seen as a “successful” pastor. In addition to being driven by the rubrics of attendance and finances, how much of the “traditional” pastoral role even becomes warped if I’m being driven by the wrong desire? How many of us feel drained by the pressure (from others and ourselves) of not dropping any balls in the arena of pastoral care or “hitting a home run” in the pulpit … how did that metaphor get applied to the preaching of God’s Word?!

Chris, You are so dear! The honesty of your comments here touch me deeply b/c they describe so powerfully the dynamics we are all facing these days. Indeed, how did the language and metaphors of secular culture ever get applied to preaching God’s word or even the pastoral role and calling? It is this kind of honesty that will help us get back to the heart of our calling.

I have been so blessed by so many of the comments and vulnerability of those like Howard. I have been in ministry for 53 years now and am so sad to admit that I have only taken days or a weekend alone to be with God in the past. However, at the beginning of this pandemic, God spoke to me about seeing it as at least a half a day alone with the Lord, a somewhat of a Sabbatical. None of us would have imagined that it would still be going on at this point. However, due to all my wonderful times with the Lord and reading many of Ruth’s books, I truly feel more successful now than when I am doing all my normal travels of being with our staff internationally. Yes, I love those times and hope they will be in my future, but have so loved and been so renewed in my soul by my times with Him. I can truly say for the first time in all these years that I have not felt the need to ‘perform’ for those above me. My prayer now is that when I am able to do my ministry that God will be able to use me to encourage those that I serve to also realize what serving Him means in their lives. If we simply give His love to others and follow His ways as we are faithful, God will be pleased with each of us. I, like Howard, want to simply mentor the next generation in this way, not the way of the world.

Dear Pat and Howard and others who have been on the treadmill of ministry. Thank you for your comments and reflections. It’s so good to read what others are reflecting on during this time of COVID.

These last few months has my heart leaning more towards wanting to mentor and lead smaller and more intimate fellowships. I am seriously thinking of a return to starting a house church like I did in my youth. That house church grew to the point where we started to meet throughout the week in other people’s homes for prayer and light meals inviting neighbours and new people to the table. Eventually we ventured into a building where we tried to keep our focus on small groups although the church grew. However, as it usually happens when a fellowship grows we often try to contain it under a building rather than look at the potential of creating smaller circles spread out across a community.

It’s interesting that during the time of COVID we have been forced into smaller circles of community, some of us alone, some of us as a couple and some of with “larger” families, combined and otherwise. My spiritual director for example is a nun and she lives with 4 others. This is her family. My husband and I have no children so we have been on our own for nearly 3 months, but we are not alone, not really. I thank the Lord for Skype where every Wednesday my husband and I meet with my brother-in-law who is in long term care 400 miles away and lives with Parkinson’s. He has not had an in person visitor for 3 months. I am so thankful there are those who care for him enough to have set this up and makes sure he is well taken care of.

Now some of the emergency measures are being lifted and we are out in the community more. However, I am taking my time reconnecting with others in person because I realize just how much I have come to appreciate more time with God in prayer, writing, mentoring others via telephone, and solitude. Eventually I will “get back to work” but for now I am savouring the quiet probably because I know the time is coming where things will return to being much more active once again.

While there have been deathly and horrific effects worldwide because of COVID19 in contrast the very small corner of our world, hidden in between 2 of Canada’s largest cities and on the border of New York State, is bursting with life! Just before sunrise every day I wake up to a loud melodic chorus of chirping of birds. I read once that birds mimic the sound of the city.

There are animals running everywhere on our lawn, from squirrels to coyotes to woodchuks (or was it a groundhog?) to rabbits. As long as I don’t see a huge black rat snake I’m okay! As I venture outside to greet each day chipmunks run up the backstairs looking for smatterings of breakfast falling my cereal bowl.

We live in a parsonage beside a church that is over 165 years old. As I stroll around the acreage and buildings I have come to notice that the forest of giant old trees seem to bend their long branches together so that it looks like I am sheltered and meditating underneath a living cathedral. At night the sprinkle of thousands of silver stars above us twinkle and shine inviting me to come and reflect awhile on their light. My husband has taken note of planets and their alignments over the last few months and is so excited about what they may be revealing to us who take notice. We are never alone. God’s presence is everywhere.

So I’m not in a hurry to get back into the mad rush of things. While we are commanded to keep the Sabbath our earth also needed and still needs a recovery time where it can blossom in the beauty God created it to be.

Therefore while we need to grieve for those whom we have lost during this time let us also take the time to refocus before we get back into what we think is living and even more seriously, what we think is ministry because we cannot continue to keep pouring old wine into new wineskins. My father was a winemaker. One year his wine usually famous and delightful wine was just terrible. For years I asked my father what happened to that wine. Finally my father relented and told me, “Well, I mixed some of the new wine into with the old. All of it was ruined.” That led my father and I into a wonderful conversation about what Jesus meant about this principle.

May the peace of the Lord be with you for God’s mercies are new every morning! A new way and a new day is here. Embrace it and live.

Wow. What a lovely conversation to wake up to this morning. Thank you, Ruth and everyone who has contributed. It would be interesting to think of fruitfulness within the larger context of agriculture: the seasons of tilling and planting, of tending the rows, of patient waiting while God gives the increase, of fallow fields, and more. One thing the pandemic has accomplished in my spirit is aa reminder that not every minute needs to be scheduled or measured for its return on investment. Beautiful learnings.

Thank you!

Thank you!

Great post. Thank you. This is the first time I’ve seen the second half of Theresa’s quote about fruitfulness in relation to faithfulness. So good. Would you share the source?

Yes, amen, amen! Thank you for sharing, this was perfect timing and a good reminder. With much gratitude. Jill

I serve in a ministry that has always been mendicant in many ways, a performing arts group that puts ourselves out there to serve, and are largely at the mercy of others whether we have places to serve, to stay, etc. In this equation, success has never been about dollars and souls, more so measured in “opportunities to minister”.
We have, though, all along needed to focus on dollars – the church at large tends not to support the arts well, and in this day and age, we are just one of many groups, one of many places that money could be spent.
I resonated with this article strongly. I find myself in a difficult spot of being “productive” according to the definition of opportunities to serve, yet there’s strong pressure to bring in more money. We have fewer people doing more work and I’m at my end. To quit would have a deep impact on the ministry, yet I am faltering. My faith in Christ is strong, vision of the power of our ministry strong – energy and emotional/spiritual stability a bit shaky.
Thanks for posting the article. I need to take it before the Lord and let him speak. Again, thanks.

Ruth: Thanks for raising this critical ministry issue through the pastor’s letter. I believe that one of the results of our digitized age is that we are able to measure and quantify and evaluate so much, so quickly that no one can sustain success – it is like money and as John D. Rockefeller once said in response to the question of how much money he needed, he said just a little more!

In a similar vein Max Depree has observed in the marketplace that “an over-emphasis on quantification makes organization eunuchs!” I fear that the more we depend on numbers to justify our ministry the more we can lose our spiritual passion and vitality. Yet ignoring realities that numbers and reports can surface is a common form of denial when things are not going well.

In addition to all of the wise comments of others and the fundamental call to faithfulness I believe our greatest antidote to being captured by a worldly success mentality is to be able to embrace failure and weakness and to be able to ask for forgiveness. Even the Lord was able to ask for help and to acknowledge when he felt forsaken by the Father. This is the calling to humility – although we can’t strive for it or. Lose it!

Bob, I could not agree with you more that technology has aided and abetted the temptation to be overly reliant on external measurements of success and to do it much more quickly. There is simply now no time to wait and observe the quieter and more substantive aspects of fruitfulness that take longer to show themselves. This, too, is a dynamic that was not nearly as present in the recent past.

As you so wisely articulate, there are real paradoxes in all of this that require the ability live in creative tension–somewhere between the refusal to live in denial re:what numbers might have to tell us and not paying too much attention to numbers either. Its a good thing we have the Holy Spirit to guide us! Hopefully our reliance on that Spirit fosters the humility you describe.

[…] just read this that expresses more on this topic. Very helpful to […]

Thank you Ruth, for calling this out. I believe a false definition of success is one of the greatest challenges we are facing in the Church and Christian industry today. This distorted view, in my opinion, demonstrates the impact of culture and false theology. The message creeps in, “God is blessing us when we are growing and something is wrong when we are not”.

Growth is always determined by numbers, particularly income. It is Satan’s lie to keep us distracted by false economies with false measures and methods of success which often corrupt the Gospel message.

I have seen this at the highest level of the largest of organizations and it greatly concerns me. Debunking the notion that size and growth, budget and activity are somehow the primary indicators of God’s blessing and/or the impact God can have through a ministry is a critical leadership issue.

Thank you for continuing to highlight this issue.

There is something fundamentally out of alignment in most churches and your article highlights the deep inner crisis that results in the life of the leader. As I try to navigate how to help leaders through this maze, I am beginning to realize that the issue is not just the leader or the church he or she leads, but it is also our “Christian culture”. Even when a pastor and leadership team decide to change the the measurements of success it seems that most of the people attending don’t share that vision. They have been swimming in a consumer culture for so long that the tail now wags the dog in such a way that it becomes very difficult to shift from the success model we have created. I believe the crisis among pastoral leaders is an indicator that the church is going to enter a season of realignment, but not until there is a disruption at a deeper level — one that impacts the whole community of believers and not just the leadership. Only then will we reach critical mass in a way that deep change will occur. With that said, the call upon leaders today is finding a way to move forward in a dysfunctional system and still remain in balance. Jesus modeled this as he went into Jerusalem regularly and ached over the disorientation that had seized the religious system. He was always swimming upstream. So, we have a leader who understands and will walk with us at a time when it is very difficult to lead the church.

I would love to have some other Transforming Community alumni and Transforming Church members jump in, but I would say that it is possible to realize change. As chair of my elder board I regularly point our elders and pastors to the measurement of success modeled in the Bible. The dynamic on our elder board is changing and I am slowly working my way into the leadership DNA of the church. Modeling by God’s grace that the best thing I bring to my church leadership is a soul being transformed in Christ’s presence.

This article is so needed and so timely. All pastors need encouragement. My son is a doctor and he’s told his dad and me that his pastor patients are the most miserable/unhappy people he treats. Thank you for writing about this.

Thanks Ruth, for the quote from Henri Nouwen…the fact that we are already accepted in the beloved, I guess is the key…we don’t have to do anything more to be accepted by Him and in Him…it is from this position of confidence in Him we serve…this is what gives us the strength, the energy, security and identity come from it and not from what we do or do not do as part of our ministry. Your sessions on rest in the retreats taught me to cease from trying to be what the world expects or from the ‘ministry expectations’. Thanks again.

Thank you for the honest assessment of the difficulties in ministry, the explosion of tasks and responsibilities and the desire to accomplish all of these activities well. You speak, briefly, about keeping your personality in check (relative to your perfectionism). What practices assist you in remaining focused on your call to be faithful rather than a call to perfection?
Thank you,

Love this question! You will not be surprised to hear me say that a significant part of the answer to our wrong-headed addiction to success is a substantive practice of solitude and silence where 1–we “cease striving” (one translation of the phrase “be still” in Psalm 46:10 and know (experientially) that God is God and allow God to be God in our lives, and 2– God becomes and continues to be our ultimate orienting reality rather than whatever external measurements of success exist at any given time. All other measures of success are completely relativized when God becomes real to us in solitude and silence; all we want to do is be faithful to that Presence and call. The practice that is most helpful relative to perfectionism is love–love of self (the way God loves us) and love of others (the way God loves them). May sound trite and simple but when one’s greatest goal is to be in God for the world and to somehow do what we do in a way that reflects the love of God to others, we do our best to glorify God through the excellence we try to achieve and maintain, but we also know that without love, we are not a reflection of God’s nature at all and then we have defeated every significant purpose God has for us. We actually contradict the message we are trying to preach and that is a horrifying possibility! Of course, I could go on and on in response to such a thoughtful question but I’ll leave it at that for now 🙂

…in God for the world
NOT in the world for God.
Life-changing perspective and strategy that has rocked my world. Thank you, Ruth. Blessings and favor to you in your time away!!!

Right on! Ruth, thank you so much, for launching this post into the blogosphere. LORD, may this message continue to ripple outward, gaining momentum as time passes.

I quickly shared within my pastoral network and on my blog site your previous eReflection: “First Things First: Practicing What We Preach.”

“Rethinking Success” also needs to go forward to wherever and to whomever. I give thanks for you, E. Peterson’s et al, who champion so well this message. Nice to know that you were a PK. I’ll have to pass that on to my daughters.

Well said! Your comments rightly point out that the issue of how we measure sucess is very layered. It is about how the Christian subculture mirrors secular values and it is also about that which is false within us that is capable of being hooked by it all.

Thank you Ruth for this article. This is such a big struggle for many of us guys who get so easily caught up in worldly measurements of success when we are called to a different standard. The problem is exacerbated when our Christian sub-culture just mirrors the world in measuring success- often superficially… and it doesn’t help either if jealousy/envy of our false self also gets involved!

When I read this I substituted “generic ministry leader” for pastor and changed the details accordingly. Two years ago I was let go as executive leader from a moderately-sized Christian high school. While officially I was RIF’ed, I also know that board discussions in executive session revolved around metrics of enrollment, fundraising, etc. We all understand accountability and, in hindsight, my board did what it needed to do. I so appreciate Ruth’s post and the conversation here as I continue to struggle with the changes in my life and to embrace the new opportunities for ministry that the Lord has presented to me.

Just came across this quote from Richard Rohr that I think connects well with what you wrote, Ruth. I struggled with Rohr’s writing in TC4, but now welcome him as a prophetic voice crying out in the wilderness.

‎”Christianity is a lifestyle—a way of being in the world that is simple, non-violent, shared, inclusive, and loving. We made it, however, into a formal established religion, in order to avoid the demanding lifestyle itself. One could then be warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain at the highest levels of the church, and still easily believe that Jesus is “my personal Lord and Savior.” The world has no time for such silliness anymore. The suffering on Earth is too great.”

~ Richard Rohr

This is so true! Thanks for connecting these dots.

It is a good day when we are able to measure forever more our personal value according to Biblical scriptures which declare our Fathers’ love for us unconditionally and with never ending pursuit. From that day forward our success is never measured, but simply shared in overflowing volumous amounts of His love with everyone we encounter and everything we touch.

Thanks, all, for contributing to this very important conversation. May God help us to spur one another on to good thinking about the true nature of success and good deeds that are deeply faithful and truly fruitful.

Excellent. Thank you very much!

I remember years ago when the pastor of a church on skid row in Los Angeles told me about his need to redefine success. For him, his ministry was a success if one out of 20 in his church–5%–eventually “made it” and continued to follow Christ. Listening to his heart and experiencing his willingness to live and minister where no “worldly” success would ever be visible was a huge encouragement to me, as an inner-city missionary. I have reflected many times on his words when I have tried to explain to others exactly what I do, or when I have felt the pressure to prove to supporters (or to myself!) that what I am doing is worthwhile. It seems I have to relearn time and time again to be content to be faithful to God and to His calling on my life, and leave the results/fruit completely up to Him.

I agree that this lesson about how we measure success is something many of us need to learn over and over again. The evil one knows how to lure us into increasinly subtle versions of temptation–even using the good and holy things of God (like ministry!) to do so. Lord have mercy!

This is a great writing; thank you Ruth, and very timely for people in ministry at the beginning of a ministry year. We have a retreat center where people come to encounter God and work with the issues you raise here as well as other concerns. In many ways the church has followed the culture..rather than than standing in sharp relief to the pace of the culture and saying there is another way to be considered.

Yes. I suppose it would be good clarify that one of the subtle temptations contained within our attempts to be culturally relevant is that we could also become culturally influenced and cease to be any kind of true alternative to what the culture in espousing.

This is a timely and refreshing article. Thank you, Ruth. Along the way, this quote from Brennan Manning has also been helpful to me… “Time has been given to us to cause love to grow, and the success of our lives will be measured by how delicately and sensitively we have loved.”

Amen. Love often gets lost in the shuffle of our drivenness in ministry–a sure sign that we are not being “successful” in the truest sense of the word. Thank you.

Thirty-four years ago when I graduated from seminary I heard Dr. Vernon Grounds in his Commencement address warn us of bowing down to worship (quoting William James’ characterization) ‘the bitch-goddess Success.’ That jolting phrase etched itself on my consciousness and on my ministry value system. It simply reflects the values of Jesus who calls us to lose our lives for his sake, not be successful for our sake. For 15 years in ministry I succumbed to the wiles of the success goddess. However, I must confess that I was not a victim. I chose her over Jesus. The ambition, envy, pride, and avarice in my heart made me an easy target. Sadly, I had no personal or ministry mentors warning me of those deep vices that can easily co-exist with an exterior facade of ministry success, the appearance of righteousness, and egoism disguised as self-sacrifice. As pastors, teachers, and ministry leaders we must learn, as Eugene Peterson encourages, to do our work not just in the truth of Jesus, but in the way of Jesus. This may mean a small, obscure, faithful ministry rather than a successful, glamorous one that has lost its soul.


Wow! Your transparency is courageous. Your self-awareness is inspiring. Your wisdom is priceless. Your perspective is needed.

I hope you are able to mentor those young guys in ways you were not privileged.

Your new admirer,


Howard, when you write of “the values of Jesus who calls us to lose our lives for his sake, not be successful for our sake,” your words reach far into the places where our Lord continues to do a mighty work in me.

I am recovering from a dreadful case of intransigent bipolar disorder which has knocked “success” as I was pursuing it in my 20’s entirely out of reach. I am now, through God’s powerful mercy, living in a state of restoration and stability that is allowing me to spearhead a ministry to hurting people within and beyond our church walls. It is particularly important for those of us who have been knocked out and off our paths to be constantly reminded our work is for him who restored my soul, and not for us to reclaim lost and unfulfilled dreams of “success.”

I thank you for that reminder.

Your cogent words will help me keep on track.

Thanks for your wise words Howard, and for your faithfulness in living them out.

Well said, Howard! Thank you for offering the wisdom of your experience to this conversation. Blessings.

Hi Howard. “The bitch-goddess Success…” WOW! Just the jolt I needed to hear. Thank you for your addition to this article.

I have been a spiritual director with pastors and their spouses for years and my husband is a congregational developer in our denomination. Too often congregational developers are mistakenly thought of as “numbers guys” who are trying to turn every church into a mega-church. This is not so. Evangelism and “success” for each church as it honors it’s own gifts and limitations while bearing God’s light and love to its unique community should be measured by fruitfulness within its context. What a blessing to see pastors and laity alike excited about the fruitfulness of lives transformed and neighborhoods blessed by God’s love made tangible through their new and revitalized churches. It saddens me to see other denominational officials judge such ministries’ viability and success by numbers alone. Too many are too impatient for ministry growth, and prematurly judge, or even shut down, fruitful ministries. I think in an effort to hold pastors and churches accountable, too often “success” is measured by attendance, membership, and monitary contributions to the denomination. I am encouraged that some are talking about different ways of measuring success. As a “half-time” pastor (no such thing) of two small churches, I feel the pressures you have described so well. Thank you for your words of encouragement and guidance. Your ministry is life-giving to pastors.

You’re welcome! I like your phrase that the “success” of community should be measured by “fruitfulness within it’s context.” Indeed.

Thank you for this article, Ruth – I needed it, my pastor needs it and it’s such a clear statement of the “something darker” that can accompany leadership teaching.
I’m thinking how often we leave Rom 12:3 out of the picture when we quote Rom 12:2. Part of not being pressured by the world and of knowing God’s will for me is having the right measurement of success as you’ve said so well, and a sane estimate of myself… His call and design for me. Personally, I err on both sides, aiming both too low and too high.
Agur asks two favors before he dies (Prov 30:7-9) – God’s help to never lie, and “neither poverty nor riches, but just enough to satisfy my needs”. “For if I grow rich, I may deny You” and forget I can’t be spiritually effective in my own gifts and management, but “if I am too poor, I may steal”, comparing myself and trying to imitate or borrow what’s worked for others while missing effectiveness and contentment with what He’s given ME, “and thus insult God’s holy Name”.
Thanks for your ministry and your ongoing input in my life thru these articles. May I translate this for use with pastors and missionary candidates here?

Another wonderful articulation of the same idea. Thank you! And yes, feel free to translate this for your setting and then share it with us so we can perhaps use it. We often have requests for our materials translated into Spanish. Blessings on you faithful and fruitful ministry.

I measure success by the number of lives I have touched with Christ’s love and His message and the way I have responded to the call of God on my life as I am able to perceive it.

I think keeping it simple as Mother Theresa says. Keeping it true..success is defined by her faith, faith is what she based her life on. Keeping up with the”Jonse’s” doesn’t de
fine what true ministry is in my perspective. I think re-defining success especially in an age where materialism and money seems to define success should be ministered should be spoken in great deal that in the end these two things really are at the bottom of the list. If one truely does not have faith in 1) God, 2) One,s self, 3) Family, 4) Humanity
5) Mother Earth…what else really matters? We need to get back to simple ministry

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