Measuring Success in Ministry

In this day and age, success in Christian work is often equated with actual conversions. Many ministries, churches and mission organizations measure their success in terms of warm bodies or number of new believers. Often, they will ask, “How many accepted Christ?” “How many were added to the church membership?” “How many stood up during the altar call?”

The more members, the more professions of faith, the more successful the ministry.

 After more than a year in full-time Christian work, however, I believe this measurement of success doesn’t work for everyone. Worse, it can even lead to one of either two extremes—pride for those with outstanding figures to show, or discouragement and depression for those whose programs do not yield many new believers.

How, then, can we measure our progress if not through the number of new believers?

First, I want to point us back to a very telling passage from Scripture. Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth saying, “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart… But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us… (2 Cor. 4:1, 7)

All true Christian ministry, church and organization ultimately belong to God. It is by His mercy that He allowed us, unworthy creatures, to become stewards of His work. And because He owns all ministries, God should always be the measure of worth of our Christian work.

That is, we have to rejoice in the ministries we have because of God. He should be the center of every plan and strategy. His glory should be the burning light we desire to spread. And there is nothing to fear in the struggles we face because God is our leader. He knows well enough what to do and how to do things. Our part is to trust in Him, to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and to obey…never to lose heart.

At the same time, we have no right, whatsoever, to boast about any achievement because God owns them all. We cannot hold on to successful events, multitudes of conversion or overflowing membership as personal trophies. We are not entitled to such boastings because these things came to pass only because of God.

We are only jars of clay. We are nothing compared to God. No amount of scheming or planning, no special program or structure or anything brings about change in a person. They cross over from death to life not because of us but inspite of us. The miracle of salvation happens only because of God’s grace and mercy.

We cannot stand before our crucified Lord and say, “These people became Christians because I shared the Gospel to them using a very special style which I invented.” No. This is unacceptable. Before Christ on the cross, we can only say, “Thank you, Lord, for saving us.”

We may use a simple Christian tract or come up with an elaborate evangelism program, but the power ultimately comes from God. We are saved by God’s grace nothing more, nothing less.

Having said these things, how, then, do we measure success in ministry? This for me is a more fitting measurement:

We can say that a ministry is successful not based on the number of conversions or warm bodies but on the faithfulness of those whom God called to become stewards of His ministry. A Christian work is successful if it continues to preach Christ faithfully according to Scripture to as many people as possible in its mission field, even without the sought-after increase.

And if we still want to quantify this further, we can say that the measure of success also equals the number of people we have touched and served through the Gospel of Christ whether they are added to the body or not.  One of our former pastors at Diliman Campus Bible Church summarized this point in the word “impact.” He asks, “If your ministry disappears, will people who do not belong to that ministry care?” 

Thus, whenever we evaluate in the church or in our Christian organizations, we must put high up in the list the question of faithfulness. “Have we been faithful stewards of God’s ministry?” And it is also right to ask, “Do our programs and strategies lead people closer to Christ?”

I believe if we are faithful in proclaiming Christ in words, deeds and life, touching every person whom God brings us, we have successfully fulfilled our duty. For in doing so, we have planted the seed of the Gospel or watered a seed from long ago which will sprout and grow through God’s enabling.

“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow (1 Cor. 3:7).”

Next time you are confronted with the question of success, it is best to measure it in terms of faithfulness and impact, not so on the number of converts.

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  1. According to modern standards, Jeremiah was a failure, preaching more than thirty years and having no one listen, but it was exactly what God said would happen. In fact God promised to make his hard as a rock so he wouldn't get discouraged and quit because they wouldn't listen. Success is doing what God commanded regardless of the outcome.

  2. Very well said, if I may say so! Praise God that the harvest doesn't depend on us, but on the Lord's perfect plan and movement!