"Ministry Success" or "Mission Failure"?

"Ministry Success" or "Mission Failure"? June 19, 2013

A friend of mine, Ben Stuart, recently wrote an excellent post for the Desiring God blog.

BreakawayThe post is called “Fighting the Tyranny of Ministry Success,” where he offers sober comments about ambition and ministry. Here is a snippet––

What is the most loving thing God can do for a 22-year-old minister?

In my case, it was ordaining that my inaugural, epic, game-changing, well-publicized ministry event be attended by one kid.

One single human being. A junior high boy named Austin.

Feed His One Sheep

My honest reaction as I sat there and looked into the face of this young man was one of resentment. I wanted, needed, and even expected God to give me a far more successful ministry. Like the frustrated sniper in Saving Private Ryan, I felt that God’s placement of me in this context was a “complete misallocation of resources.”

For the first time in my life, I decided to voice that complaint to God. As I prayed, I felt as though he posed the question from John 21:15 to me, “Ben, do you love me?” My response mirrored Peter’s, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Then that rare mixture of comfort and conviction that only the Spirit can bring came over me, “Then feed my sheep. One sheep.” My heart broke.

The Crowd Versus the King

I realized in that moment that I did not love young Austin. In fact, I resented him because he wasn’t 20 people, or 2,000. I wasn’t seeing him as a person. I was seeing him as a way to advance myself ……

For the rest of his article, click here.

I think Ben’s thoughts are relevant for any ministry context. Missionaries are not immune to the temptation. Consider that moment every month or quarter when you send in your ministry report, telling how many people have professed to follow Christ, how many people have heard the gospel, how many churches were started, etc. (Most missionaries periodically write some sort of report like this.)

Might this sort of ministry ambition in part lie beneath a number of strategy initiatives? the desire to see church planting movement? the zeal for faster, simplified ways of sharing the gospel? Of course, we are all mixed bags. Pastors and missionaries are not different from anyone else.

In your own life and work, how have you seen the ambition for “ministry success” lead to ministry failure?

Ben Stuart (@Ben_Stuart) is executive director for Breakaway, a non-denominational, weekly Bible study on the campus of Texas A&M University that introduces college students to Jesus and calls them to walk with him for a lifetime.

Photo Courtesy of Breakaway Ministries

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