Tuesday Re-mix –
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:1-3
I will be the first to admit I have validation issues…O.K., maybe not the first to admit it, but I do get to that admission eventually. What other people think of me probably matters more to me than it should…words of affirmation are definitely how I feel loved (thank you, Gary Chapman). Add to that my (mostly-healthy) competitive nature and then stir in my very American-public-school-achievement orientation, and you have a recipe for a man who is all about constantly assessing his successes versus his failures. It is important to me. Maybe it is important to you too.
I measure everything. I measure my case load and my billings at work. I measure my workouts and my sleep hours at home. I measure my quality time spent with my wife and with my daughters (never enough). I measure the conferences and speaking engagements I do, the writing time I have, the churches with whom I consult, and the budget dollars in my ministry. I measure the attendance in The Gathering, and my teaching time there. I measure my readership, my “hits”, my “click-throughs” and my subscriptions to this blog. I am always assessing and reassessing and measuring the success and/or failure of all these endeavors. I’ll bet you do as well.
The question is, in ministry, what does success look like? How is it really measured? I know you have already read many, many articles and posts on measuring success in ministry (if not, look here for one of my own). But will you allow me this one simple reminder, straight from the apostle Paul himself? The clearest testimony of the effectiveness of your ministry is the lives God has changed through it. Ultimately, it is not the buildings you have built, the budgets you have grown and/or met, the attendance you have amassed, the books you have sold, or any other such measure…except to the extent that any of those things have actually changed lives in the past and are continuing to do so now.
In ministry, everything we do, every new direction we take, every step along the way, is ultimately aimed at changing lives. If not, then it is a step in the wrong direction. Those stories of changed lives are the only measures that really matter. Those testimonies are the best evidence that we are getting it right. All the other “indicators” may well be pointing the wrong way, but if lives are still being changed, then we have success. On the other hand, all the other indicators may well be pointing the right way, but it just does not matter unless lives are being changed. The lives changed by your ministry are the most important commendation you can have.
When it comes to all those other “indicators”, those of us in Christian service would all do well to remember that Jesus himself started his public ministry with huge crowds following him and ended it with just a hundred (or so) followers still hanging on…and it is His Spirit who is driving your ministry. [*gulp!*]