- Growing Movements
- Personal Discipleship
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- Body Life
The Seduction Of Success
I’ll go out on a limb here and say that all of us would agree that ministry success is way better than ministry failure, right? Odds are, you’re in ministry because, like me, you’ve seen fruit produced. That’s why I think that every leader, at some point, needs to confront the issue of success and what to do with it. In fact, that very feeling of seeing God use us in ministry can be the very thing that ends up taking us out. Success can be very seductive.
History is full of people who have gotten caught up in their fame and success and lose sight of their core values. Church history is no exception.
If success becomes our goal, it can have some disastrous consequences:
- You end up pushing people harder and harder to produce results.
- You end up pushing yourself harder and harder to make something happen.
- You end up consumed by worry and anxiety…you lose sleep worrying about the next ministry event or outreach and how it will go.
- Then, when there’s a lack of fruit, you allow that to steal your joy and passion and vision.
- You find yourself threatened by others who are seeing more fruit than you…you find yourself comparing yourself to them instead of rejoicing in what the Lord is doing through them.
- And you fail to take time away from ministry to develop your heart because those internal things aren’t seen by others and don’t show up on ministry reports.
One of the passages that the Lord brings me back to to keep me grounded is in Luke 10.
Jesus sends out 72 disciples and they see amazing things happen. In verse 17 it says that the 72 returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” How awesome is that?
Jesus acknowledges the success and affirms it and then He says something that has really been helpful to me as a missionary: “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
It’s like Jesus is saying, “Don’t rejoice in success (and, by the way, who was it again who even gave you that authority to drive out demons?) but rejoice in your Heavenly Father’s grace to you.”
A friend of mine recently wrote in a blog post: “The Gospel reminds us that God’s love is not based on what we do or how well we do it, but rather on the sovereign choice of God to love us.”
The next couple of verses seem to underscore that idea.
In verse 21, Jesus prays, saying, “I praise you father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children…”
If you were one of the disciples listening in, how would you respond? What are you saying Jesus? We’re not wise and learned?
And then, in verse 22 Jesus says, “No one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Again, what did the disciples think as they heard this? So, Jesus, you’re saying that it really has very little to do with me and it’s about you revealing the Father to people?
And, if that were not enough, he says this in verse 24: “I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
It’s like Jesus is saying, “Look fellas, you happened to be born at the right time to see all of this…it’s not that you are any better than those prophets and kings, you just happen to be in the right place at the right time…Oh and, by the way, I determine that.”
I am so grateful to my first campus director who reminded me of this over and over as a new staff member. He was constantly reminding me that, ultimately, a successful year is when we get to the end of that year and my name is still written in the Lamb’s book of life. That truth freed me when things were going well and when things weren’t going well: to remember that this Great Commission thing is really God’s idea and it’s God’s work.
Bill Bright (the founder of Cru) was once asked by a reporter to talk about the problems he faced. Bill responded by saying, “I don’t have any problems.” He went on to explain: “I am a slave of Christ and a slave only does what his master tells him to do… A slave doesn’t have problems. They are all his master’s problems.”
I love that because Bill understood that ministry flows from dependence on God and that our fruitfulness is ultimately about Him and His work, not our own.
So, how has it been going for you so far this year? Are you chasing success? Is lack of fruit discouraging? Go after the mission hard this year, but ultimately rejoice that your name is written in the Book of Life.