Seven Biblical Definitions of Ministry Success (Part One)

lightstock_169198_medium_kevin_halloran

In his early life as a pastor, Kent Hughes faced a personal crisis. He seemed to be doing everything right in ministry, but his church wasn’t growing—at least not compared to the church across town. This lack of ‘success’ ate at him and made his efforts seem worthless. What else do I need to do to be successful?

Many—if not all—pastors face a similar crisis. Is this just part of the grind of ministry, or is there a better perspective?

Kent and Barbara Hughes sought God for answers from the Scriptures for their dilemma and what they found make the backbone of their important book Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome.

The Hughes’ tell their story of liberation from the success syndrome of ministry by sharing rich examples from biblical characters, powerful illustrations, and God’s eternal perspective that will energize and refocus readers. Instead of measuring success with worldly standards, the authors share seven biblical definitions of ministry success, which we share below in the form of a quote summary.

“…the miserable yoke of worldly success is so crushing because it is a burden that God’s servants were never meant to bear.” (106)


1. Success is faithfulness.

“As Barbara and I searched the Scriptures, we found no place where it says that God’s servants are called to be successful. Rather, we discovered our call is to be faithful.” (35)

“So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:1–2).” (35)

Using the episode from Numbers 20 when Moses struck the rock to provide water for Israel instead of speaking to it, Hughes explains that, “one can be regarded as hugely successful in the ministry and yet be a failure.” (36) Moses was not faithful to God’s word and faced the consequence for it: not being able to enter the Promised Land.

Two Essential Elements of Faithfulness:

1. Obedience

“Obedience (knowing and explicitly doing God’s Word) is the key to true success.” (38)

2. Hard work

“No one keeps track of a pastor’s time…if a man is not a self-starter, it is so easy to come in late and go home early. It is also very easy to let prayer and sermon preparation slip, and, generally, to imagine that extraneous interests are ‘ministry.’ There is more sloth in the pastoral ministry than we would like to admit.” (42)

[Commenting on the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14–20]:
“The Lord has nothing good to say about lazy servants; they are unfaithful.” (42)

2. Success is Serving.

“Whenever we may be on the path of servanthood, there is one thing we all must do if we are to be servants, and that is to look to the cross. It is the crowning event of Christ’s servant life, just as Jesus had said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45)…So here’s one secret of successful ministry: When we keep our eyes upon the cross, we want to serve. Friends and co-workers, if we have been chafing under our ministerial burdens, possibly wondering if we have followed our own fancies, we need to envision Christ washing the feet of rough, unlettered fishermen. We need to see Christ on the cross washing our sins away as the Ultimate Servant. And then we need to whisper, “Lord, you washed their feet; you washed away my sins. I will serve you and your church. Amen.”” (50–51)

Three Essential forms of service:

  1. Preaching. “So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1), tell us that a primary avenue of servanthood is preaching the truths of the gospel.” “Faithfulness in the pulpit requires a vast investment of time and energy and is a great service to Christ and his church, whether recognized by the church or not. Those who would honor God in the pulpit must be servants.” (51)
  2. Administering. “Do we see our executive duties as opportunities to serve Christ? If we do, we will be encouraged to give our very best to him in loving, efficient administration.” (52)
  3. Counseling. “Paul charges us, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Here the pastoral ministry provides vast opportunity for servanthood because we are very often the ones to whom people turn to unburden themselves…pastoral counseling compels us to serve others much in the way the Lord would if he were still here on earth.” (52)

3. Success is Loving.

“Before all things, even service to God, we must love God with all our hearts. It is the highest priority in life! It is the first question for every theologian, every pastor, every missionary. It is the quintessential question for everyone who wants to please God.” (58)

“What appears at first glance to be success, is not necessarily success in God’s economy.” (58)

Love liberates us in four ways (59–60):

  1. It places our lives and ministries beyond the fallible, oppressive judgment of the quantifiers—the statistic keepers.
  2. It liberates us from the destructive tendency to compare ourselves with others.
  3. It frees and motivates us to live our life’s highest priority [loving God].
  4. It is freeing to the whole church, regardless of status, because loving God is something equally open to all.

3 Ways to Cultivate More Love for God (60–61):

  1. Be honest in examining yourself and your current love for him.
  2. Cultivate earnestly the conscious inner ability to love him while we serve him.
  3. Spend special time with him.

Part two shares four more biblical elements of ministry success.

4 Signs of God’s Providence in Haiti

Since the writing of the story below, Hurricane Matthew has devastated Haiti, taking the lives of an estimated 1,000 and leaving another two million homeless. Countless homes and churches have been destroyed, and disease and famine are spreading rapidly. Would you join us in prayer for our Haiti brothers and sisters and for the gospel to go forth in power? Come, Lord Jesus!


Dear friends and partners,

When you think of Haiti, what comes to mind? Crushing poverty…earthquake devastation…billions of dollars of aid that seem wasted?

Haiti’s future may look remarkably different because God loves Haiti and has raised up a people for Himself. And, in His providence, God is inviting Leadership Resources to equip the pastors of this Caribbean country. Here are four signs of God’s gracious providence…

  1. God brought us the right partner

Our ministry needs in-country partners who are like-minded and strategic thinkers. God led us to Dony St. Germain, a Haitian who runs a ministry which, in part, is dedicated to equipping pastors. Dony has the connections and the local smarts to make this gospel partnership take root and bear fruit.

  1. God speaks Creoleimg_5806

Haiti has two official languages: French and Creole. Everybody in Haiti speaks Creole, while speaking French is a status symbol used by some to look down on others. For the Word of God to flourish in Haiti, training must be done in the heart language of Haiti: Creole. The only problem is finding a translator who shares our passion.

Enter Edvard, a Haitian man studying biblical exegesis at Wheaton College. When he was a young Christian in Haiti, Edvard saw a preacher read from the French Bible in order to impress his congregation. Then, when the preacher tried to switch to Creole, he completely confused everyone, including himself! At that moment, Edvard felt a call from God to see Bible training and biblical resources available to all Haitians in Creole.

  1. God transforms hearts

In July, our team met with 34 exceptional students who were hungry for training and growth. When Haitian pastors realized the curriculum handed to them was in their heart language, their eyes lit up like five-year-olds on Christmas. “Look, it’s in Creole!!” God used the book of Jonah to transform hearts and show His mercy toward sinners and wayward servants.

One pastor confessed hating a man who persecutes him and looking forward to the day of his death. Now, he decided to pray for that man everyday and to try to reach him with Christ’s love. Another man, who once avoided thoughts of a lengthy journey to an unreached village, is praying for strength to walk the twelve hours needed to share the gospel where it has not been heard. 

13735109_159467664476831_5230227562385827124_o

  1. God is already multiplying His Word

Very early one morning a TNT (Training National Trainers) student surprised a barely-awake Sean Martin (LRI Trainer) as he made coffee, “Can I have another booklet that summarizes the LRI principles of Bible interpretation?”

“Why do you need the booklet?” Sean inquired, curious to both the request and its timing. Our student replied, “I talked to the principal at our seminary about how powerful God’s Word was in TNT training, and he asked me to share the training with our whole school!”

This isn’t the only exciting avenue for multiplication. Two TNTers have been commissioned by their denomination to share the LRI training with the leaders of all 1,000 churches!

Our joy and expectancy for God’s continued work in Haiti is overflowing. Many Haitian churches are still influenced by voodoo beliefs and practices and desperately need to understand God’s life-giving Word. This month, would you invest in us so that we can continue this valuable training in places like Haiti? By God’s grace, your gift will not be like the billions of wasted dollars, but rather will bring about a movement of God’s Word that flows through every Haitian church, to the glory of God!

Thank you for your partnership,

Craig Parro

donateribbon-copy-300x104

PS: Our new translator Edvard told us the story of his wedding. Edvard violated the custom of Haiti’s elite by having his wedding performed in Creole rather than French. Some found this scandalous… after all, Edvard was a highly-educated man… of course he should have a French wedding ceremony. However, wedding attenders’ initial doubts ended with amazement: they heard a Christian wedding in their heart language! If God brings about a powerful movement of His Word in Haiti, it will be through gospel-centered men like Edvard. What a privilege to partner with a courageous man like Edvard!

Former Drug Addicts Hungry for God’s Word

New Life

God’s Word brings life!

If you have been around the LRI world for any length of time this is likely a phrase you have heard. Why? It is the core conviction that drives our ministry. It is why we do what we do.

Speaking these words simply lends voice to what Jesus declared long ago, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). Jesus drew these words from Deuteronomy 8:3 (read along with the surrounding context), but perhaps he also had in mind the process described in Isaiah 55:10-11 (read the whole chapter for maximum benefit).

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11).

It is easy to hear the second half (“not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose”) but miss the first (“making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater”). This is an image of life. The Word that comes from God creates, nourishes and sustain life. Nothing else has this power and beauty. This is not only our conviction—it’s our delight. Over the years we’ve been so privileged to hear and see this truth in action. Every time we walk away in wonder and joy saying, “Isn’t our God great!”

Former Drug Addicts Hungry for God’s Word

Meet Daniel. He is one of our Mentor Trainers, a key graduate partnering with us to spread a Movement of the Word of God in his part of the world. Among other things, he is directly training some 25 former drug addicts. They have been transformed by Christ. Many of them with HIV, quite literally knowing what it means to be brought back from death to life. They have decided to serve Christ with their lives. They are hungry for the Word of God and eager to help and train others in addiction. Daniel will spend 4 years discipling them. For two years he will train them in how to study the Bible and for two more how to preach it.

One year into the training Daniel reports, “when they get these principles they apply the Word of God very quickly and effectively.”

Recently he gave an assignment regarding the two roads in Matthew 7:13-14. The broad road leads to destruction, the narrow one leads to life. He asked them to study it for themselves then report back.

When they came back together, it was clear God’s Spirit was at work in their lives. They said, “we used to be on the road to destruction, but now we are on the road to eternal life. They spoke not as one making a simple recitation, but as one whose spirit had been revived by the light of day. They bubbled up with the God-given awareness that though following Jesus may be hard it is worth it all. They not only saw, they perceived.

One of the students, in particular, is an example of such change. His wife testifies, “He used to be a cruel man, using his leadership to control others, but now he serves with humility.” She is so happy to see his transformation that she willing supports him through her earnings as a hairdresser to give 100% of his time to serve the Lord as a pastor to drug addicts. All attending his church are former drug addicts or family members of such and become Christians when they see his transformation. His wife is so happy.

The Word of God truly brings life!


Note: I have not identified real names and places though you may have guessed. If I were to do so, you would be filled with even greater joy.