When I was younger I was so self assured that I knew what success was and I also could recognise failure and of course being a pastor there were plenty of people ready to tell what I got right and what they disapproved of. If only life were that simple. I realise these days that success and failure depend upon what criteria you use to measure them. In every walk of life we seemed to be obsessed with the values of success and failure. You only have to look at the world of work where much energy goes into making successful businesses, successful schools and so the list goes on.
I ask my self the question what makes a successful church. Is a church that is comfortable within its self and where people feel they belong – successful? I recently did two visits on the same day where one person told me they felt let down by the church and another said it was is most wonderful fellowship. I went home confused to say the least. A look at the “does the church scratch where I itch” feedback forms reveals that people have very different criteria for thinking the church successful or other wise.
I turn to the bible and look for inspiration so that I can determine what makes a successful church and even there the evidence is confusing at least at first sight. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey and hundreds of people proclaim him as Messiah. A week later and he is crucified with all but a handful of his followers having deserted him. I have to ask which of these two incidents confirms Jesus success. They both do but in different ways. The first shows that even prior to his death there were many prepared to follow him and to proclaim him as Gods chosen one. That spells success. A successful church may have many members and be both out going and mission orientated.
The crucifixion however was necessary for the salvation of the world. We all know that salvation is not possible without it. Here is success of a different form and with Gods approval. The major criteria for a successful church seems be in winning the approval of God. This only comes when prayer and honesty with God are at the heart of church life. A successful church needs God’s approval and not just the approval of those who are part of it.
Your friend and pastor