Who wants to be a failure?
Who wants to tank at work or in school? What parent wants to see her children reject Christ or plunge into sin? What pastor enjoys seeing his church shrivel or creep along like a spiritual garden slug?
For many years I joked (to cover my sense of failure) that church growth experts were studying our church because they’d never seen a church lose so many people so quickly.
We live in a culture that worships success and attainment. We celebrate the Steve Jobs’s and Michael Jordans of the world. And Christians are often seduced by the Pied Piper of Success. In his book, A Passion For Faithfulness, J. I. Packer says:
The passion for success constantly becomes a spiritual problem–really, a lapse into idolatry–in the lives of God’s servants today. To want to succeed in things that matter is of course natural, and not wrong in itself, but to feel that one must at all costs be able to project oneself to others as a success is an almost demonized state of mind, from which deliverance is needed.
The world’s idea that everyone, from childhood up, should be able to succeed at all times in measurable ways, and that it is a great disgrace not to, hangs over the Christian community like a pall of acrid smoke…
I know many parents who faithfully shared the gospel with their children from the time they could understand it. Yet a number of those children are not serving Christ. It’s easy for parents to feel like shameful failures when despite their best efforts and years of prayers, their child rejects the Lord. On the flip side, when a child gets saved at a young age, a parent can think it’s because of their excellent parenting skills.
I know pastors whose churches failed and others who have labored for years and seen limited growth. Are they are failures? Packer also says:
The way of health and humility is for us to admit to ourselves that in the final analysis we do not and cannot know the measure of our success as God sees it. Wisdom says: leave success ratings to God, and live your Christianity as a religion of faithfulness rather than an idolatry of achievement.
This is liberating! Leave success ratings to God. In the end, we can’t know how God measures our “success.” Let us seek to be faithful, not successful. Jesus won’t welcome us to heaven with, “Well done good and successful servant,” but “good and faithful servant.”