Summary: This is the third in a three sermon series taken from Wayne Schmidt's book, "Ministry Velocity: The Power for Leadership Momentum" as it related to our church moving from a rented facility into a dedicated worship facility.
The Measure of Success
Scripture: Joshua 4
What is success? When does it happen? When can we say we have been successful? Two weeks ago, we talked about momentum and how momentum is developed by creating a God-focused movement. And if we create among us, a God-focused movement, how do we know when we’ve been successful?
Measuring success is hard. It’s especially hard to measure success from God’s standards. It’s not so difficult to measure success in our own eyes. Is success, for example, being able to make the transition that’s ahead of us, and keep everybody happy, and not have any fights. Is that success? Is success being able to burn the mortgage in five years? Have we achieved success if we’re all comfortable? Or maybe we’ve actually arrived at success when people are UNcomfortable and everyone is wanting to move OUT of their comfort zones to achieve more - maybe that’s success.
Churches aren’t exempt from trying to evaluate their success. Wesleyan Pastors serving Wesleyan churches have to send in statistics every month. To a certain degree, I’m sure, it’s those statistics that determine from a denominational point of view, whether a church, and therefore its pastor, is successful or not. Some churches evaluate their success on the caliber of worship team they have, or the entertainment value of the pastor’s sermons. Some would say success is based on the size of the youth group. Some base it on the percent of their mission giving.
No matter how we define “success” it will fall somewhere on a continuum between superficial and spiritualized.
At the superficial end of the scale, success is measured purely on external indicators. Things like attendance, giving, programs, the social status of the members. All these things figure into whether the church is successful or not, so the mood of the people, the attitude of the congregation rises and falls on these external measures.
And you are likely already thinking about the problems associated with that kind of measure of success. There are PLENTY of problems with it. For one, the variables keep changing. People come and go, giving is up and down, young people grow up. Programs become obsolete.
But the most serious problem in this measure of success is that it’s measured by novelty rather than ministry. Church budgets can expand based on a few wealthy givers - but that can result in the compromise of biblical standards. One of those givers gets mad or a decision is made that goes against what they think should happen and they take their ball and bat and go home.
I followed one pastor into a church that had just built an elaborate addition to their facility with the philosophy that “if you build it they will come.” And do you know what happened? They were so busy trying to pay for the addition they had no money for ministry. “Build it and they will come” is a Hollywood mentality that sugar coats the reality of what Jesus said in Luke 14:28, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower, won’t he first sit down and estimate the cost.”
We can build it, and they MIGHT come . . . for a while . . . until the novelty wears off. If we don’t have something a lot more substantial than a fancy building or a big addition, we’d better go back to the drawing board - better yet, go back to GOD and see what HE thinks, not what Hollywood is spitting out to us.
We don’t ever want to become one of those churches that is a mile wide and an inch deep. Superficial - Success based on the externals.
But the other end of the spectrum is just as dangerous and we need to be careful to not go there either. That’s were success is spiritualized. People on this end of the spectrum, they dig their heels in and resist any kind of external assessment of church health, or success. And really, it’s harder to criticize this end of the spectrum because they all “sound so spiritual.”
This end of the spectrum say things like:
* God has just called us to be faithful
* If it reaches just one soul, it’s all been worth it.
* We may be small, but we’re holy!
* God likes quality over quantity.
You know what both ends of this spectrum smell like to me? Pride. Either end of this spectrum is full of pride.
So what’s the answer. If we look back at Joshua, chapter 1, we see there in verses 7 & 8, - in two verses, twice God gives Joshua instructions so that he will be successful. Verse 8 says, “then you will be prosperous and successful.”
And now, in chapter 4, the first of the successes ahead for Joshua has been accomplished and God commands Joshua to build a monument to that success. Isn’t that interesting? God tells Joshua to build a monument to their success. A symbol of the success the people of Israel had just experienced. Symbols are important. We used symbols a lot. We’re especially learning about symbols in our Wednesday night Bible Study. We, today, have sacred symbols of God’s faithfulness in our lives - communion, baptism - then there are other symbols, not sacred - not sacraments, nevertheless very important symbols in the life of a believer - the cross - it’s a reminder of what Christ did for us; - the altar of prayer - we don’t have one here. Pot lucks - they’re a symbol. They’re an important symbol - of loving fellowship. Pot lucks are important.