When it comes to ministry, how do you spell success? In many occupations, the marks of success are clearer: promotions, position on the corporate ladder, or size of your bank account. When it comes to full-time labors for a church, what are the marks of success? Kent and Barbara Hughes in their book, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, tell their own struggles. Kent reached a point of depression. Ministry was filled with frustrations and few visible rewards. How do you go on year after year? In their search for answers, one of the passages that struck home was 1 Corinthians 4:1-2.
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. (ESV)
How do you spell success? F–A–I–T–H–F–U–L. After their study of the Scriptures, the Hughes decided that it was not success as the world views it, but faithfulness that was the “success” ingredient for ministry. From this liberating discovery they began to strive for:
- To be faithful (obedient to God’s Word and hardworking)
- To serve God and others
- To love God
- To believe he is (to believe what we believe)
- To pray
- To pursue holiness
- To develop a positive attitude
Their emphasis on faithfulness helped them pursue ministry without frustration and disappointment. This emphasis on faithfulness in ministry is a help to full-time ministry, but I think it is also applicable to those very active in the ministry of the church. Ministry is often done quietly and without notice. The emphasis on faithfulness puts matters in perspective. But we can also be assured that God will not forget our ministry even if others never notice it.
So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden. (1 Timothy 5:25, ESV)
Freeing ourselves from the success syndrome is not always easy. Some who try to serve become broken tools in the Master’s hand because they have desired the limelight. Others are tempered by the trials: the lesson of faithfulness is learned, and lives are blessed. Success for servants is spelled F-A-I-T-H-F-U-L.