Christian leaders are great at comparing themselves to other Christians leaders. Every time I’m in a room with other pastors the conversations are always the same: “Where do you work? How big is your church?” Even If I’m talking to youth pastors it’s still the same: “How many students are in your youth group? Oh, well how Big is your church?” When I was young I felt very insecure about my numbers, because small numbers made me feel like I was doing something wrong, like I was not a success.
Who Defines Success?
My gifting and calling (my values) make me great at discipleship and mentoring. Because of this I am naturally drawn to smaller churches as well as churches that are struggling and need some intense discipleship. I desired greatly to be obedient to God and serve where he sent me, but I also felt the pressure of well meaning elders and members who wanted to see exploding numbers and the envy of seeing mega churches with hundreds of teens. For years I fought the battle of programs versus calling.
Success is a difficult thing to define, and, if we are not careful, we will let media define success in our personal lives and other churches define success in our ministries. But, like Wilferd Peterson said, “Success is focusing the full power of all you are on what you have a burning desire to achieve.” Success then happens only when your unique gifts are enabling you to live your unique values.
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” – Romans 12:6-8
Letting Your Values Define Success
Whatever it is you are gifted to do, that is the thing you should do. We all love the narrative that God is going to call us to do something that we are not equipped to do, like Moses being called to lead Israel even though he stuttered and was a shepherd. However, we forget that God made sure he grew up in Pharaoh’s palace learning about Egyptian culture while receiving a great education. Moses was born in the right place at the right time to do what God had called him to do. How about Esther? Remember that Mordecai told her that it was for such a time as this? Or any number of other biblical examples.
God called his people to do incredibly difficult things that he had been preparing them to do their whole lives. Just like you. God has given you your own experiences, abilities, and desires, all because He has a plan for you. What if you started defining success as you using your gifts to accomplish your call?
I had a mentor tell me once that the only thing that I should be striving to be was “Ultra Rocky.” He meant that God had already done the work in me, and my task was to live up to that. My task wasn’t to live up to some program, standard, or number but to authentically be what God had created me to be, to let my values define my goals.
The result of my commitment to be the teacher and mentor God created me to be has proven remarkable. God has allowed me to pastor, and train so many people who have gone into vocational ministry and multiplied the work of the Lord all over the world! I’m so grateful for what God has done. I wonder what he will do with you!