How do you define success in your church or ministry setting? In The Choice: The Christ-Centered Pursuit of Kingdom Outcomes, R. Scott Rodin, Wesley K. Willmer, and I suggest that most people define success in one of two ways, and this decision charts a predictable course that sends us down one of two paths.
The first path, which we call the common path, looks something like this. Success is measured by numbers: people served, clients cared for, and/or expanded facilities. To deliver results in these areas, we hire production-driven leaders who implement expansion-focused strategies, and we assess outputs in terms of earthly oriented metrics. All this leads us to manage people based on results and expend resources to deliver growth. In plain terms, on the common path we do everything we can to find people who can deliver results and our work requires a seemingly never-ending supply of money for them to make things happen. Is this what ministry is all about?
We believe there is another path people can take. We call it the kingdom path. Success is measured using qualitative rather than quantitative measures, in other words, we focus on how we do what we do (which we can control) rather than what results we produce (which we cannot control). Steward leaders implement strategies focused on faithfulness and assessed using eternity-oriented metrics. For example, a church defines what a disciple is and assesses how it is doing making disciples rather than how many disciples it makes. On this path, ministries utilize relationship-based management and put material resources to work as instructed in the Scriptures. All that happens along these lines represents the by-product of obedience, which we believe is all Christ asks of us.
So how do we get on the common path when the kingdom path makes so much sense? We believe the evil one tempts us to take control, to trust in what we can see, and to revel in the praise people give us when we excel. These values not only drive our world but they also hinder our fruitfulness for the kingdom. Interestingly, the three deceptions that Christ-followers face—control, idolatry, and pride—are the same temptations that preceded the ministry of Jesus. We conclude that the reason the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted was to show us the way. As these three victories paved the way for the ministry of Jesus, they must precede ours.
How can we get on track? Jesus instructs us simply to follow Him. When we do in the pages of the New Testament, we find ten marks from Christ’s earthly ministry that are also evident in the early church. They comprise the course the first disciples took and mark the kingdom path for us to follow obediently today. Here is a brief summary of them.
We must (1) submit to the Father, and (2) we must be filled, led, and empowered by the Spirit. These traits sketch our operating system. We cannot function any other way as steward leaders! We implement faithfulness-focused strategies related to (3) prayerful strategic planning and (3) raising kingdom resources. Think of these as the apps we run perpetually to be sure we are about the Father’s business and trusting in Him as our Provider. This will ensure we don’t drift from God’s agenda to our own and shift from serving God to serving mammon.
Next, we utilize eternity-oriented metrics that are linked to (5) ministry accountability and (6) transparent financial administration. We do this to exhibit integrity before God and man and to ensure our efforts build God’s eternal kingdom rather than our earthly one. Our posture for management is not driven by results but by nurturing relationships. Rather than loving money and using people we choose to love people and use money; thus, we resolve to follow the example of Christ and (7) serve people humbly while (8) doing everything with love.
Lastly, aligned with a stewardship view of resources, (9) we seek to mobilize spiritually gifted people. We want to help God’s people find a place in kingdom ministry that matches the gifts God has given them, while also (10) exhorting everyone to demonstrate radical Christian generosity. As leaders we must model the way of obedience in this area. We do this by putting all we are and all we have to work in order to make known the gospel.
In one sense, this book is a call to change directions and define success differently, so in that sense, you could say it’s a call to repentance. We also believe that as God’s people around the world make the choice to follow the kingdom path it may also contribute to a revival. That’s our prayer. Regardless of what others are doing, we pray you make the choice to follow the kingdom path, and may your faithfulness result in fruitfulness for God’s kingdom.
Gary G. Hoag, Ph.D., provides spiritual and strategic counsel for leaders for encouraging Christian generosity. To receive his daily Meditations, visit www.generositymonk.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To purchase The Choice: The Christ-Centered Pursuit of Kingdom Outcomes by Gary G. Hoag, R. Scott Rodin, Wesley K. Willmer, visit www.ecfa.org/ECFAPress.aspx or www.amazon.com.
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