This begins a three-week conversation on success within church, faith and Christianity. We’ll dive deep into a few things. Our overall focus is this - Corner Church success is defined whatever is animated and motivated by our faith in Jesus apart from all of our church activities.
What do you think of when you hear the word success? Maybe you’re ready for a motivational speech. Or a sporting event where your team might win.
Success can be connected to motivation or feeling strong emotion, though it doesn’t have to be.
What is success?
Think about the infinite number of definitions. Money. Fame. Accomplishments. Being loved. Creativity. Contentment. Family. Heaven. Just to name a few.
We’re not going to necessarily focus on what success is today, but rather, how we get to our definitions of success.
So much of life and faith can be about the destination that we miss the actual process of the journey. And in success we can often aim for the end goal and pay little to no attention to the process of actually getting there. When we get to our success “by any means possible”, is it really success?
Why are there so many different measures of success in life?
Think about how many different measures there are for success. I know for me, just thinking about that makes me realize maybe my own definitions need to undergo redefining on a regular basis. Maybe success isn’t destination based, or stagnant. Maybe it shifts and moves and is based on process.
Think about when you have determined what success actually looks like. No matter what the actual success is, think about the process. What is the impact of having determined what is actually successful?
There are endless moments when success is an unmarked unknown. Or when defining success is ignored or avoided. Or when it is defined as something completely ambiguous.
What are the impacts of having a clear definition of success?
Having a clear definition of success can do a lot for us. It can point us a specific direction. According to our own definitions and frameworks, it can show us if we’re going “good” or “bad” at something. It can help us to have a “why” and to continue in things that are difficult.
It can also show us that maybe we’re aiming for some things that aren’t really that healthy or aren’t really great goals to try and achieve. Things like revenge or manipulation or pain avoidance.
And in the endless things that we are pointing at as success, in this whole conversation of mess, we come to the realities that there is success as a Christian, and there is success as a church.
And in those destinations of success, it’s possible to have noble intentions but to aim for the wrong things and cause pain to ourselves and others.
So let’s talk about church success. As a community we always want to be redefining and revisiting things. We don’t want to entrench ourselves in the wrong things, rather, we want to continue defining success based on process rather than perfectly arriving at some destination.
What is success in the context of church?
Would you know it if there was a successful church in your community?
Would you know if a church was successful when you walked in on Sunday morning?
If you were part of a church for nearly a decade and were asked by a trusted confidant if your church was successful, what sort of things would impact your answer? What would your process of determining that answer be?
What makes a church successful?
What would a pastor say?
What would an attender say?
What would a first time visitor say?
What would a neighbor say?
What would a disgruntled attender say?
What would a non-attending person from the community say?
Keep this question in mind. What am I doing because of my faith in Jesus outside of church stuff?
There are some scriptural themes that come up when talking about success.
Who is vital? Everyone.
There is Paul’s perspective in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 about the importance of each person in the Body of Christ.
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
What is most important? Loving God and loving people.
Jesus was approached by an expert in the law trying to trip Him up.
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
How is loving God and others lived out? By serving people, specifically the least of people.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Here’s a little exercise. Come up with as many examples as you can of things that people do that are animated and motivated by faith in Jesus. Then cross off everything off that list that appears on a church calendar. What are you left with?
I am into being able to measure things. I like data. I want to know if our church is successful. But what’s more important is that each of us in community can come to an internal reality of success apart from our church stuff.
What am I doing because of my faith outside of the church calendar?
This isn’t about just going and doing things outside of church activities. We could easily turn this into that external measure moment. But this is really a point for internal evaluation.
Do I actually have faith moments/activities outside of the church calendar?
Are those moments motivated by my faith? If not then what are the motivators?
The measure of success is not just doing more things, but having the right motivations to do the right things. These things need to be in alignment to be measured as success.
When I do the right things, is it only because I feel like I have to?
Do I do the right things out of guilt or shame?
Do I have a bunch of pride surrounding the things that I have done?
Not doing the right things is of course not the correct answer, but neither is doing the right things out of the wrong motivations.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
What you do does not save you, God calls us to do some things.
What impact does it have on you if you start evaluating your engagement in being the church by looking at what you are doing outside of the church calendar?
Take It Deeper Questions
1 Corinthians 12:12-30
What would your closest friends and/or family say is your greatest strength? Weakness?
How do these verses make you feel about your place in the body of Christ? About your need for others?
What is the cost of isolation?
How are you challenged and focused by this text today?
Bible Reading Plan
1 John 3
1 John 4
1 John 5
2 John 1
3 John 1