What Is Successful Church Ministry?

I like to keep asking myself and my leadership team this question: How do we know if our church is successful? 

The apostle Paul uses two words to help answer these questions: Quality and Faithfulness.

But each one’s work will be shown for what it is; the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire—the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. (1 Corinthians 3:13)

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. (1 Corinthians 4:2)

So here are two important questions we need to ask ourselves:

  • Am I doing quality work?
  • Am I faithfully doing my work?

To help answer those questions, I like this thought from Leonard Sweet’s book I Am A Follower:

“The most important metrics we must rely on, the crucial ‘deliverables’ we can present, must focus on the newly formed lives of the disciples we are making, the followers who are following Christ into a place of serving Him by serving others. The most important measure of our faithfulness to Christ must be the extent of transformation into the living image of Christ Himself. …

The quantifiable fruit of our church is not found in the number of people we can gather on a weekly basis. What counts is what is happening in the lives of those who have gathered. …It is quite possible to have a ‘successful’ life—and a ‘successful’ church—without God. But it is absolutely impossible to have a truly fruitful one.”

Again, Paul’s advice here is invaluable:

My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes…. (1 Corinthians 4:4, 5)

Pastor, you need to think about these questions about “success.” But they should be questions framed around your quality and faithfulness of work as revealed to you by the Holy Spirit, not by some “expert” or anyone else.

(By the way, if you’re interested in exploring this further, I framed this question a different way in this post.)

UPDATE: This post was one of the seed thoughts that went into fashioning my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter.

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