Missionary success is difficult to measure. People are our job, so what is the measuring stick of success?
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While it is nice (and often true) to say if one person believes, it is worth it; will the missions committee or our financial backers agree?
We define success in missions through three main components:
Of all the long-term workers I respect, this is the common trait which makes people my missionary heroes. Miracles and massive numbers are cause for rejoicing, but nothing make me want to emulate someone like faithfulness. Hearing stories of the sacrifices people make or the way they engage with the culture, inspires my heart.
I recently spoke to an international leader in my mission who was still riding buses to his various training appointments in Africa. This man has the respect of a continent because he is willing to pay the price to live as they do.
When we moved to Africa, we set out for as long as was necessary to see something established which would outlast us. This goal cannot be measured by numbers or statistics. We will only be able to declare “Mission Accomplished” through being faithful.
Point to ponder: Are we simply being faithful to what God has called us to?
Faithfulness cannot be our only measuring stick or ministry becomes our god. To truly be submitted to the right thing, we must include obedience as a measure.
- Obedience causes us to adjust for different seasons in our lives. Seasons may involve pulling back in your children’s younger years.
- Obedience may call you to walk away from a success with no plan as to the future, much like Abraham.
- Obedience tells you when it is time to move on, passing off leadership at the right time.
Merely focussing on faithfulness brings a sense of endurance and no retreat. This can easily turn into self-guided ambition. Obedience enhances a desire to never give up, shaping it with wisdom from above.
Point to ponder: More than success, financial provision, or even happiness; are we being obedient?
Imagine if I could gain an agreement for a large donor to support us provided I engage in the creative arts? I would be way outside of my sphere. (folks who know me around the world are laughing at this thought.)
I am not called to dance or art, I am a teacher. My life message is the grace of God. If I am not engaging in this sphere, I am failing as a person and thereby a missionary.
When my family moved to South Africa, we had a desire to work on a smaller missions campus. God brought massive growth, so we needed to adjust our expectations. He was calling more workers into the field. Who were we to argue over personal preferences?
The same is true if God has called and gifted some to work in small groups. This is their definition of success, rather than large crusade-like numbers. They’re effectiveness, and resulting measure of success, comes through many one-on-one relationships.
Point to ponder: Are we doing the ministry God has gifted us uniquely to do regardless of what brings in the finances?
If we have peace in answering these three question several things are accomplished:
- It takes away guilt when we are called to an “easier” or even a beautiful, scenic field.
- It relieves the pressure of performance carried with the stereotype of being a missionary.
- It allows us to enjoy the “ordinariness” of missionary life as much as the “miracles.”
- It helps us be real people, sharing not only the joys of life, but also the struggles and frustrations.
Missionaries are real people.
We define success by faithfulness and obedience in the sphere of our gifting, not numbers or newsletters.
How do you define success? What elements would you add to this discussion?