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Called to faithfulness, not success, duh!

Continuing on last post’s topic about church growth, here is a book recommendation I came across in my readings:

Liberating Ministry from the Success SyndromeLiberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome
by R. Kent Hughes and Barbara Hughes

How does one measure success in ministry? Longtime pastor Kent Hughes and his wife Barbara urge readers to turn to God’s Word rather than numbers.

Every year thousands of God’s servants leave the ministry convinced they are failures. Years ago, in the midst of a crisis of faith, Kent Hughes almost became one of them. But instead he and his wife Barbara turned to God’s Word, determined to learn what God had to say about success and to evaluate their ministry from a biblical point of view.

This book describes their journey and their liberation from the “success syndrome”-the misguided belief that success in ministry means increased numbers. In today’s world it is easy to be seduced by the secular thinking that places a number on everything. But the authors teach that true success in ministry lies not in numbers but in several key areas: faithfulness, serving, loving, believing, prayer, holiness, and a Christlike attitude. Their thoughts will encourage readers who grapple with feelings of failure and lead them to a deeper, fuller understanding of success in Christian ministry.

This book was originally published by Tyndale in 1987 and includes a new preface.

One of the very best books I have read on the spirituality of pastoral ministry.
Philip Graham Ryken, Senior Minister, Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia

I recommend that every pastor first read the Hughes’s book privately and then go over it with his lay leaders. Doing this will not be less than a milestone and might well be a watershed.
J. I. Packer, Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology, Regent College

Related Sermon: Pastoral Success and the Cross of Christ by Kent Hughes (from 1989 Desiring God Conference for Pastors)

We are not called to success, as the world fancies it, but to faithfulness. We realized that the results are for God and eternity to reveal.” — Kent Hughes

You have heard that it was said, ‘God does not call you to be successful but to be faithful.’ But I say to you that in God’s eyes faithfulness is success. Down here success is the sign of faithfulness, but up there the only sign of success is faithfulness.” — Martin Marty, “How Do You Spell Success?” Context, 15 Nov 1991, 3-4.

P.S. What if you are told such convictions are naive, unrealistic, and ivory-tower thinking? How do you respond?

Posted in Church, Mission & Evangelism, Pastoral, Posts in English.

3 Responses

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  1. Edmund says

    I guess it depends on who is saying that. It is from someone who pastors you? Or someone that you pastor?

    My friend left a church where he pastor for some time because the focus among leadership was nothing but numeric growth — every meeting is about attendance reports.

  2. Karen says

    That’s why it’s so much easier to measure success in the secular world – profit. The more the profit the better. While in a church setting, everyone can think of something different – one use numerical growth, the other emphasizes on spiritual maturity (which is even more difficult to measure… you can’t simply quantify it)… ah, maybe more practically speaking, how much offering the church receives each week, etc etc.

    My question is, do we need a way (or ways) to measure? If so, how? If not, why?

  3. Anson says

    I think the Scripture still teaches us to measure our progress in faith, just that it should not be done in human terms, but in God’s terms (2 Cor. 10:12-18, 2 Peter 1:5-9), which are measures more qualitative rather than quantitative.

    I think even the secular world knows how to do qualitative measurements. Not all is quantitative. I remember when I had my yearly reviews as a software engineer, I was assessed according to areas such as: contribution, continuous improvement, critical thinking, leadership, functional expertise, and market focus. They were no numbers attached to them, but subjective grading given by my supervisor.

    So my point is, if the church only knows how to do quantitative measurements, then it is doing a worse job (or a lazier job) than secular companies.