H ow you define success defines you. Success isn’t good or bad, but we all have some sort of metric of success. For me, more than anything else, success is stewarding well what’s been entrusted to our care. It’s a stewardship issue. Some of this may not work for the non- religious sector,but fromaChristian nonprofit direction, stewardship is knowing that Jesus will never say to us at the end of our days, “What did you do with what I didn’t give you?” He’ll only ask, “What did you do with what I gave you?” It’s Jesus’s parable of the one, two, or five talents. He isn’t thanking one because he had five, he’s honoring those who had different ones because two of the three actually stewarded well what was entrusted to them. And he got angry at the one who didn’t steward it well and simply became fearful. Unfortunately, in the church world, we’ve gotten this mixed up, and stolen the metrics of success from the business world.Those are the three Bs of buildings, bodies, and budget: how much, how often, how big? What we’re saying is, you’re a successful pastor if you have a large building, lots of bodies (attendance is up),and a big budget.If all those things are up, you’re successful. If all those things are down, you’re a really unsuccessful pastor, a failure – in fact, we may not have you around for much longer. This is an over-generalization, but what’s needed is a metric that involves faithfulness and fruitfulness. It’s much more of a long-term thing that has to be driven by grace, not by performance. Unfortunately, pastors can very easily make methods and models an idol, believing in them more than the Messiah. So we have to be really careful.
or faith community needs to, based on the health of that organization. When I was young, my dad had tomato plants, and he’d put a popular garden fertilizer on them – probably a little too much.There’s a picture of me on my dad’s shoulders, reaching as high as I could, unable to reach the top of the plant.The tomatoes were the size of large grapefruits. They impressed the neighbors, who came to take pictures. But they didn’t taste very good. Why? Because they were unnatural.They had been chemically altered, so they were not the way a tomato is supposed to be. Often we try to throw fertilizer on, and we can impress the neighbors but, deep down, it’s not really the tomato as it was intended to be.That ambition is always there to reach for the fertilizer, those methods or those metrics that we could use to enhance this flow and ambition. We have to be aware of that in our own spirits. J.R. Briggs is the author of Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure , and he describes himself as husband, daddy, friend, author, shepherd, teacher, pastor, church planter, failure, peace-maker, rule-breaker, dreamer.
I’m not against large churches. I’m against impure motives of ambition toward large churches. Competition and comparison eat away at contentment and joy. Redefining success: I love congruence, because congruence is a big deal, wherever you are.The congruence of the story of my church or organization had better match the congruence of story of our founder, our vision, or the people we’re trying to serve. If it doesn’t, there are going to be problems! Congruence means the church world should shift its thinking, prioritizing process over product. Instead of prioritizing results, look at relationships. Both are important, but prioritize relationships over results, stories over pure numbers, and congruence over efficiency. Jesus was a very inefficient leader, but he was so effective that his followers are still around two millennia later. If you looked at his leadership principles, I doubt he’d be invited to speak at many leadership conferences today. In some ways we’re redefining success, but actually it’s just reminding us of the way Jesus talks about “success.” I like the word health much better, because healthy things reproduce. Growth isn’t always healthy: cancer grows faster than anything else. Healthy things mature and reproduce at the rate in which that organism or nonprofit
32 I Nonprofit Professional Performance Magazine
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