I stated as I began this series of blogs, that I can’t describe what an incredible blessing the book “Liberating Ministry From The Success Syndrome” has been to me. When I look back over the years in the ministry the Lord has blessed me with, I am reminded what the world or even our denomination calls success may not be accurate. In my first church, we were going through a time of incredible growth, we saw many people come to Christ - this little church in Byron, Ga. was among the top 50 in the Southern Baptist Convention in Baptisms. Then, not long ago in our previous church, we had to deal with an individual caught in immorality and, when we dealt with this man there was an overwhelming desire to ignore the sin, to let it go. Nevertheless, the church stood for truth in the midst of great difficulty - many were angered, others accused us of being uncaring or arrogant, and many left the church. Which church was more successful? It depends on your definition of success. Seeing people come to Christ is always exciting, and it is evidence of a work of God; however, when the Church expects one another to live holy and holds one another accountable, is it any less successful? We have already looked at the fact that success is faithfulness, serving, and loving. But in his book, Kent Hughes goes a few more steps.
Success is Believing: The Bible says “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Most of my difficulty arises from the failure of this area. I will tell you and preach to you so often that we serve a sovereign God, but when something happens, when difficulty comes - too often I respond in a way that doesn’t display what I say I believe. Often I get anxious over things, frustrated over issues, and aggravated with people. Too often I act as if some accident has taken place in my life rather than believing that God is at work for His glory and my good. If my belief is deepening, it will change my behavior in the present, and it will change my response in adversity. He closes this chapter out by asking three questions that serve as a heart check: (1) Am I believing that God can take care of me? Truthfully? (2) Am I believing He loves me? (3) Am I believing that He rewards - that he is morally active on the part of those who seek him? I must confess there have been times while my head has known the correct answer, my heart doubted these things.
Success is Prayer: If I am not praying I am not a success in the eyes of God. He points out that prayer is fundamental to be a success in the ministry. We need to look no further than Christ; when pressures grew, He did no more than to withdraw and pray. Hughes gives a few reasons why prayer is so important: (1) We pray because of what prayer does to us. Prayer is not to change God’s mind - He is unchanging. God knows that what we need more than anything else is to fix our focus upon Him and He will conform our heart. Prayer is not when I get God to do something for me, but when He moves in my life in such a way that I am aligned with His will. (2) We pray because of what prayer does in the church. Prayer sets the spiritual atmosphere of the church. How blessed I am that so many in our church have sent e-mails, cards and spoken to me and shared that they pray for me daily. I covet those prayers and can’t imagine where I would be without so many saints of God interceding for me. (3) We pray because Jesus prayed: Several years ago there was a popular fad among believers and others to wear a W.W.J.D bracelet, shirt or some other type of article. We know the answer to “What Would Jesus Do?” - He would pray - He demonstrated this for us.
In short, if we were to define our lives by this…if we were considered a success in our lives, our families, our ministries by how much we prayed and how much we really believed what we say we believe, the question is: Would we be successful? If our churches and leadership were as consumed with this as we are with buildings and numbers I wonder how much more successful we would really be?