Over the years, many people have told me that they believe I’ll be “successful” in ministry or have a “successful” ministry career. But many people have lots of potential to do a variety of things, and being young many are told that they will be successful in whatever field they are entering into. I say that to say I don’t believe I am inherently more skilled or gifted than anyone else, and I also know many people say these things just to be nice.
Anyway, I find it more and more humorous when I hear statements like these. I know people typically mean well, but I can’t help but feel what we mean by “successful in ministry” is not quite the same thing as what the Lord would consider successful in ministry.
In American Christianity, often in our minds we associate successful Christian leaders as charismatic (personality wise), a strong leader, an effective communicator, etc. In other words, someone who has potentially strong abilities and has demonstrated to some degree their faithfulness to God. These things together we assume will produce thriving churches, changed lives, and many followers.
These certainly are not bad things. Having and using your God given abilities is a great thing, and being faithful to Jesus is what all Christians desire. But you could accomplish all of the things above and not at all truly be “successful” in following Jesus with your life. After all, you certainly do not need to be a Christian to have the skills to gather a large crowd.
By this metric of gauging success, someone who gives their life to Jesus and faithfully follows His call for them to move to a part of the world where very few (if any) people have access to the Gospel, who dies at a relatively young age for any number of reasons because of this decision, and does not see anyone come to faith during his lifetime- would not at all be considered “successful.” How far from the truth that would be!
A Christian being successful does not have to do with numbers but rather it has to do with being faithful to where God has called you. If the Lord leads you to become the next Billy Graham and you are faithful to Him in that, then that is successful. If you work a blue-collar job, or are a mother, or never do anything in the spotlight, and are faithful to Christ in that, then you are equally successful.
Do I want to be successful in the future (as well as in the present)? Absolutely. But whether I am or not has nothing to do with numerical results and everything to do with how faithful I am being where ever God takes me. And in the times that I fall short, I will be ever more thankful for God’s grace.