Measuring Ministry Success

Today I’m just going to read the table of contents of an old book. I’d be surprised if I’ve never referenced this book in the past because it’s a classic, incredibly helpful, encouraging book in all areas and all times and places for pastors. It’s a book called “Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome” by Kent and Barbara Hughes. It came out in 1987, with a rework in 2008.

I came across this book early in my ministry life. In fact, it may have actually been on internship where someone recommended it to me or in my pastoral training before I was a pastor. I became a pastor in 1990, so it would have been out by then.

I want to focus on the chapter titles in part two and I’m going to read these just as a challenge to whatever view of success perhaps you’re wrestling with right now. These days it’s hard to measure “success” in ministry. A lot of the old metrics have vaporized and we can be doing the same thing and the numbers aren’t there. But what actually is success in ministry? Here is a list from Kent and Barbara.

These are chapter titles:

  • Success is faithfulness
  • Success is serving
  • Success is loving
  • Success is believing
  • Success is prayer
  • Success is holiness
  • Success is attitude.

I’m not going to unpack any of those. I’m just going to simply say, if you are feeling like a failure based on some external metric, please take a look at these: faithfulness, serving, loving, believing, prayer, holiness, and attitude. You might discover that you’re not as much of a failure as you think you are. You might be more successful than you think or see that success is completely within your grasp because all of these things really come down to our choice and our response to the work of the Spirit in us.

So I just want to say today, be encouraged. Press on. Keep fighting the fight and be a disciple, who makes disciples, operating from the right definition of success.

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