What is Ministerial Success?

Ministerial Success is an article about our goals as preachers and ministers of God. What should a man of God consider as success? What, then, is success in the ministry? Do we need to tell them constantly how much better we are than the rest? Ministerial Success is something that defines your philosophy of the ministry. What really is ministerial success?

Ministerial Success

Topic: Ministerial Success
By David Cox

What is success in the ministry? Is it a lot of people? Is it a lot of money, fancy expensive buildings and programs? Is it fame and glory? Do we need to pump up our people as to the great success that we have in the ministry? Do we need to tell them constantly how much better we are than the rest? Ministerial Success is something that defines your philosophy of the ministry. In this post we will look at it from the world’s perspective, and from God’s perspective.

What you are aiming to do in the ministry as a whole is what is going to determine how you do the things you do, and what you do. Every pastor has an idea about what he is doing as a pastor, but few actually sit down to define it extensively, and very, very few actually rake through it in prayer trying to find out from Scripture if this is the biblical way to do things. In this, most pastors abandon Scripture as their guide, and just guess at it. They do little more than guessing, and it shows by their actual ministry.

World’s definition of ministerial success

We can see what is the world’s definition of success by what is going on. Very simply, worldly people seek public and wide spread approval of what they are and what they do. They are like the proverbial waves of the sea, tossed to and fro. Their priorities and their methods are usually changed from one year to the next, and sometimes even from month to month based on what is the lately trend or Christian pop idea out there. For these people, the biggest churches and the most famous Christian “Rock stars” are the guides. I call them rock stars because they ride on a wave of popularity and fame like rock stars, and they fall eventually like all surfers. The wave petters out, and if you do not reposition yourself way out in left field again to grab another wave, you are insignificant.

For the world, there are only a few things that count. We can define them here: Money, fame and popularity, and power, control, and dominion of others (other Christians).


The bottom line for most people is money. When it comes right down to it, people who have to greatly sacrifice in order to get a minimum church structure and church running are seen as failures. What people what to see costs money. We want an air conditioned church (or heated in winter) with lots of comforts. We want a place to worship that is luxurious to put it simply. At the same time, most church people don’t want to pay for it, but they will sacrifice that if they can glory in fame (see below).

Money makes the world go around, and this is a common element in any serious work of God. It is hard to do a lot without finances. Yet we do have John the Baptist using the great outdoors, and living an austere life, apparently making no or very little money. Jesus equally didn’t have a place to lay his head, he had no particular place of working (his own, or his group’s owning of a building), and even on occasion he asked for someone to loan him a coin because apparently he didn’t carry money with him.

Money is not the most important thing

We even see Jesus do the nasty of letting a thief keep his finances, something that Jesus clearly knew. Judas played out his role in life and Jesus’ ministry, coveting the money, and eventually betraying Jesus for money, and Jesus knew this, and let him play that role out to the end.

When we speak of worldly ministries, the Bible speaks of false prophets that covet money, and the requirement that the man of God not desire anything more than what is due him, a just salary, and this is repeated in various occasions as a requirement for a minister. We understand that when a pastor has his priorities ordered as personal gain first, he will run when a threat comes to his sheep rather than risking his own welfare in order to deal with it. Truly, many true men of God have preached under God’s direction against sins in their congregations only to lose good tithers, and offend others that withhold their tithes and offerings. The worldly preachers will carefully not offend those sensitive, rich people. “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you” guides these worldly oriented ministries.

You can hear a half dozen or dozen sermons from a pulpit and get a feel as to whether the preaching is against the sins that the people before the preacher or whether it is a romp through the Bible carefully sidesetting anything that would rebuke, exhort, or correct. These pastors have the idea that personal welfare comes before anything else.

Fame, Popularity, Numbers

In contrast to a biblical atmosphere of family, help, service, humility, and meekness, our world has grown in an atmosphere of competition, extreme competition, and everybody has a team, and even within a team, there is competition. Produce and you are great. Be mediocre, and everybody hates you. Be actually bad at whatever competition you are in, and people will just about lynch you.

All this atmosphere has transfered over to churches. I see this especially in the Hyles brand of churches where everything is a program, and every program has a winner and a loser or multiple losers. Why is this the way God wants things? We have to compete one against another in other to get fulfillment, dignity, to be pleasing to God? No. This is just wrong.

2Cor 10:12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

The entire idea of measuring ourselves by comparing how we do against other Christians is just unbiblical, unwise, and destructive of the true spirit of fellowship and family we are supposed to have. The world today cannot do anything without making it a contest, with prizes, winners, and by default losers. It becomes ridiculous if everybody is given the same prize, because it is not a contest even.

The point is that the world wants to feel better about itself by comparing itself to others which are less fortunate or have less capacity and ability than they do. This is getting a leg up by stepping on others. God is never in this kind of thing, and many churches use exactly that kind of program to run things. These programs are without end. They produce a lot of activity and even people, new people. coming into the church to participate in these kinds of things.

The bottom line question is, are we going to be satisfied with just people in our building for any old reason out there, but not to hear the gospel, get saved, and worship God by studying Scripture and being holy like Christ? Is this success? No it is not. It is worldly success, but it is not what God has called us to do.

Power, control, and dominion of others

When you get down to the very essence of all of this, God wants us to have a family, a spiritual family here on earth. People who knock “church” in general as undesireable are mouthing the very words of Satan. This is what Satan wants, that you have no spiritual interaction with other good Christians. Satan also uses key people in churches (often pastors) in order to destroy that family atmosphere.

What makes a family “family”? It is the love and care that one shows to another. In other words people in a family care for their family members, they love their family members, and all that translates into service to those others in their family. Real family, a good family, also has respect one for another, and they listen attentively and with respect to those who are more mature and experienced. This may be a father or mother (also they respect those in authority in the family), but it extends very easily to elder brothers or sisters, aunts or uncles, etc. that have more wisdom or experience and that their advice can guide you in your own life.

Having laid that biblical foundation of family, Satan often gets a pastor to do his bidding by destroying family by abusing those in that spiritual family. A false prophet that manages to get into a position of authority or influence in a church will often seek carnal desires. He wants power and control over the family. Even in earthly families, there is this problem when people are carnally motivated. There is basically one reason why pastors want total unilateral control of everything. This has to do with a great ego trip and swollen self esteem that he has. Glory in his eyes is controling and dominating his brethren in Christ. But that is not the real reason for this. He wants control of people’s lives and the church so that he can get rich, self enrichment, so that he can live in luxury and extreme comfort.

Healthy, biblical pastors sacrifice their own comfort for the welfare of those in their family. They never live in comfort and luxury beyond what normal comforts those in their flock enjoy (the average person in their flock).

See my tract: ch31 3Bs of success: buildings, bodies, and bucks

God’s definition of ministerial success

Now we get to the “good stuff”. What is success in the ministry? We cannot define this; only God can. Success is when we do what God wants us to do. Note some very specific things here.

Godly Success is not Recognized in the World

What God considers important and good is rejected by the world. This cannot be any other way. When the world sees a lot of people, a lot of money being spent, and a lot of fame and human glory, God is not in any of that. What does God want in us? He wants spiritual change.

The world is thinking with a carnal mind, and they cannot think straight, nor can they understand how life really works. They are blinded to the truth, and they really cannot understand it. There is one unsaved person in a million that can sometimes get a slight understanding of all of this.

Let me remind you, (as a Christian), that there is no understanding here without a correct theological perspective. God has placed a “work” in play in the world, and this grand theatrical work goes on. It is the work of human history. But there is an end, and when this end comes, there will be an accounting. God will judge every man for what he is, and reward or punish each individual accordingly. This judgment rotates around that person’s receiving Jesus Christ in their heart as their personal Savior (see next point for more on that). But every person has a disposition towards that central key element of life.

What you do after your salvation proves the sincerity of your receiving Jesus Christ, or your insincerity in the same. Part of this is trusting in God’s words (this is just simple faith) that how God presents reality is real. EVERYTHING physical in this world will eventually be destroyed, and the world remade. (The heavens too, but our interaction is more with this world.) That being the case, a Christian fully believes and orders his life after this belief that NOTHING he can accumulate of physical things in this present world will remain in his possession beyond death, beyond the judgment. Therefore he lives holding lightly the things of this world.

Living for eternity, not pleasure and luxury in this world

This overwhelming belief is what distinguishes a Christian from an unsaved person. The child of God lives for eternity, not for tomorrow on this earth. Riches will be lost. Health will be lost and death is unavoidable. Therefore he emphasizes his life’s energy and focus on this side of death towards what is on the other side.

When I see false prophets coveting after riches, fame, luxury, mansions filled with gold and silver, pretty women (obviously their near sightedness extends to their sexual fantasies because a godly person would want a spiritual woman like himself, and looks that will be lost should mean little to him), and even luxury airplanes for them to enjoy THIS LIFE with, I always think, “This guy has no future vision.” I wonder why a person so much using the spiritual things to get rich in the material world has no insight into the prophecies God gives us, much less to the spiritual values God tries to install into us.

I look at Jesus Christ that could have had more riches, fame, glory, and power than King Solomon, but chose to live without it all, how can these false prophet guys totally be clueless about Jesus’ moral example that spills over to a frugal, meager lifestyle? Jesus never lived like these guys want to. Cannot these guys see that? Obviously no. Because they are not even saved, and they sit atop a tremendous ministry “tremendously blessed by God” as per their accounting of things. Was Jesus’ ministry blessed of God? How about the apostles? And howabout the early church? What about Paul’s ministry? By modern day standards they were all losers. Only Solomon is the moral example they want to hold up. Let me see, the King of Israel that compromised his favored status before God by allowing his riches, and the retaining of these riches to lead him down the road of multiple wives that each one led him away from God to idol worship? Why isn’t Solomon in Hebrews 11?

Success is Salvation and Personal Holiness

The true goal for ministries is that people get truly saved and live lives of personal holiness unto God. If this is the goal we should strive for, does competition really bring people into accomplishing that goal? No. Competition sets false, ungoldy goals that could be good spiritually, but also could not be. What we “compare ourselves against” is the image of Christ. True success in the Christian life is to be like Christ.

Nobody is like Christ is they are not holy, and if they are not evangelistic. People must understand that this is not about “being a professional minister in a church or not”, it is being like Christ. They must be consumed and totally given over to living Christ in the world where God has placed them. God gave us so much of Christ’s normal life in the gospels, not just so we can say, “ah, that is pretty” but for the purpose of seeing that Christ lived a lifestyle of holiness and evangelism in a daily routine, not in a temple nor church.

Christ went to the temple, the established place of worship during his day. But it is instructive that they rejected him, and he took the same message from God outside the place of worship and promoted it in his daily life. That is what success is for us also.

Godly Success is a spiritual thing, not necessarily a worldly thing

We need to keep comparing ourselves to Christ. Notice that Christ died without worldly goods. This is instructive for us. He did live a normal economic life, except for the fact that he lived by faith and God the Father provided for him. He apparently knew the carpentry business very well, although we don’t see him mending tents like Paul.

Our world focuses on materialism as being equivalent with success, and it just is not so. Success is to fulfill God’s will for your life, and this speaks of a ministry (professional or lay ministry), and it focuses on you living Christ.

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Pastor David Cox is a missionary. See my ministry updates here.