A few weeks back, I finished reading Shawn Lovejoy’s book, The Measure of our Success: An Impassioned Plea to Pastors. I loved it. I was challenged to rethink what success looks like in my ministry and my life. Overall, it was a great read.
The book was broken down into three sections: (1) Standard Measurements, (2) Redefining Success, and (3) A New Set of Metrics. In the first section, Shawn emphasized that pastors are struggling as they attempt to measure up to what they believe the standard of success in the contemporary American church looks like. Pastors are burning out, losing their families, and forsaking the call of God on their life. He stressed that three C’s are to blame for a majority of this: (1) Comparing, (2) Copying, and (3) Condemning. He wrote, “Could it be that you and I are limiting the movement of God in our churches because we’re trying to fight the battle in someone else’s armor? Could it be that we relentlessly pursue church growth – numbers, activity, approval, or fame – because we are insecure in our own skin and in our own armor? Could our anxiety, fatigue, and discouragement be symptoms of ‘success syndrome?’” He concluded this section with a personal story about his struggle in his calling as a pastor and as a husband and father. This was one of the best parts of the book in my opinion because it showed Shawn’s vulnerability and openness. I was greatly challenged to consider my schedule and desires as a pastor in light of my primary calling – husband to Janie and father to Anna and Leah.
The second section was entitled “Redefining Success” and the first chapter focused on spiritual, emotional, relational, intellectual, and physical vitality. This was a great chapter and very practical in nature. He then emphasized that our primary focus should be making disciples and displaying Christ’s love to a lost and dying world. He wrote, “Jesus said, ‘Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples’ (John 13:35). Love is all that matters to him. Love is what makes me a disciple. Love is success. Love is the essence of the Christian life. There is nothing deeper than that.” He then challenged pastors to develop strong teams and work well with these teams to accomplish God’s mission. The last two chapters in this section focused on the expectation for pastors to fulfill the role of prophet within the church – challenging the status quo, accept criticism, and stand on God’s Word. Pastoral ministry is a calling and it is not for the fain of heart!
In the final section, Shawn offered a set of new metrics that should guide pastors. He stressed that we need to look at conversion growth and discipleship growth in our churches. “All of us would be counted as worthier servants of God if we would stop worrying so much about building the biggest church and start focusing more on building his kingdom through our church!” One of the most powerful chapters in the entire book was in this section – “Christology before Ecclesiology.” In this chapter, Shawn argued that we need to be certain that we emphasize Christ as the hope for the world and not the church. This was convicting!
One of my favorite things about this book is that Shawn included guest writers at the end of each chapter and several of my favorite quotes came from them. Overall, I thought this was a great book and would be a great read for any pastor.
“God gave us a certain amount of talent, and he only holds us accountable for the gifts we have. Success is not reaching megachurch status. Success is using the skills and talents God gave each of us to live out the mission he assigned to us.”
“God doesn’t need you. Serve him because you love him and because you want to pour out your life in response to him, but not because he is in heaven wringing his hands with worry about whether you have what it takes. You don’t. He does. Your responsibility is to be faithful, not to be God.” (J. D. Greear)
“Daily I must decide if I want to substitute my work for God for my relationship with God.”
“The tyranny of the urgent keeps us from developing our strengths and improving our weaknesses.”
“Your primary responsibility as a leader is your own spiritual development. If you’re growing in the spiritual disciplines and in your love for Jesus, everything else will take care of itself. Don’t worry about church growth. Church growth is a byproduct of personal growth.” (Mark Batterson)
“Just like the Pharisees who lived in Jesus’ day, somewhere in the process we have forsaken love. Pastors, we must stop chasing models and start chasing Jesus again! The health of God’s church depends on it. There is no secret model or system that can guarantee success. It’s a myth. Only Jesus can draw people to himself. Not even well-thought-out plans can accomplish what only he is capable of doing.”
“In order to get the most accurate picture of the mission of the church, we need to have an accurate picture of Jesus.”
“If we really believe that Jesus was the hope of the world, we as pastors would spend more time with him. By our actions, most of us prove that we actually believe our music, preaching, programs, productions, and even meetings produce more life change than prayer.”