What is the measure of success in ministry? Is it the number of baptisms within a specified period of time. Baptism is supposed to be an outward act that reveals what has happened within a new believer. The key word here is “believer.” One should be a believer to be qualified for water baptism. But we all know that many are baptized more than once, thus baptism in and of itself is not a reliable indicator of salvation. Therefore the number of baptisms is probably not the best measure of success.
What about churches that are drawing large numbers on a regular basis. Maybe the best example of this is Lakewood Church in Houston. On any given Sunday, they will have approximately 43,500 in attendance. It is the largest church in numbers in this nation. If large numbers were an indication of success, Lakewood would be beyond successful.
There could also be other measures of success such as assets, palatial buildings, real estate owned or number of paid staff members. Some might also say that a long list of programs would indicate success. So where do we find the answer to this question of what determines a churches success? Could it be found in the Bible?
Our Lord Jesus came out of nowhere (if you want to call heaven nowhere) and became successful beyond measure. He was drawing crowds of many thousands, and they were not just showing up one day a week to sit for an hour or two in an air conditioned building with padded pews. There were no paid staff members there to cater them. There was not even any “entertainment.” No choir, orchestra, pianist, and no trained music minister. Worse yet, most of them walked out into the hillsides and valleys and were there for hours on end. Ever wonder what they did for restrooms? But He drew enormous numbers who were so mesmerized by his preaching and teaching that their environment didn’t matter that much.
But then he would begin to say certain things that went contrary to what they wanted to hear and many began to leave. (As in John 6:53-66)
Suddenly, the thousands were reduced to hundreds and eventually a mere handful. So did Jesus then go from great success to failure? No, it was those who abandoned Him that had failed. Were they all lost and destined for hell? I don’t know; he never gave an invitation. Maybe because He knew that it wouldn’t mean much more than it does today.
Is there a part of me that wants those I teach, minister to and counsel with to always respond positively? Absolutely! That is the fleshly, prideful, arrogant part of me! When I feed that monster, it gets stronger and can take over causing me to get frustrated when I don’t get my way. But you see, many times my way is not His way. If I get my way, I may be standing in His way. I have been such a slow learner, but I do know that our Lord is always faithful even when we aren’t. He is good even when we are bad. He is patient and long suffering even when we are impatient and impulsive.
I am so weary of doing things my way. It is like trying to swim upstream in the Colorado River. I am ready for some rest and I am finally beginning to learn where to find it.
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
I really like the sound of that invitation given by the Lord! You and I should eventually come to a place where we serve, minister to, and care for others because we are compelled by the Spirit of God to do it. Not because we are obligated nor shamed into doing it; just being faithful to the calling that has been placed on our life by the Love of our life.