Monday, September 9, 2013

Idolizing Ministry Results

He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.—Luke 10:18-20

These are the words of Jesus after the 72 returned and reported about the mission on which Jesus had sent them.  They were rejoicing in their ministry success. They were celebrating the results of their efforts. It seems to me that we spend a lot of time in the modern church rejoicing over the outcomes of our ministry, especially when we are successful like the 72 disciples were. Do we turn ministry results into an idol? Consider the history of Christian "movements" over the last century:
  • Missionary movement—focusing on reaching the nations and rejoicing in our efforts when we do.
  • Charismatic movement—focusing on the experience of God's presence and rejoicing when we have the "right" experience.
  • Church growth movement—focusing on growing the church and rejoicing when we are bigger this year than we were last.
  • Seeker Church movement—focusing on church that will attract seekers and rejoicing when our efforts attract seekers.
  • Cell Church/Small Group movement—focusing on multiplying small groups and rejoicing when we have more small groups this year than we did last.
  • Church Revitalization movement—focusing on turning churches around and rejoicing we churches rise up out of the mire
  • Missional/Incarnatinoal movement—focusing on living out church in the local, contextual neighborhoods and rejoicing over our creative church experiments
  • Movement movement—focusing on rapid multiplication of simple churches and rejoicing over exponential growth.
I'm not saying that any of these "movements" are intrinsically wrong headed. That's not my point. I think that we have a tendency to turn such things into idols. When we do this, it causes us to focus more and more on outcomes and finding the new and the next strategy that promises to produce those outcomes. Instead being tapped into the source of our identity, we try to find our identity in the success or failure of our efforts. We lose our identity in our "ministry" and thereby lose the ability to lead people in that ministry. We idolize ministry results and lose the focus needed to have those results in the first place.

We attain the ability to make a difference when we don't focus on the results of making a difference. Love is not love if we are trying to get some kind of predetermined result. And we can only live in this love and thereby offer love to others when we are rooted and grounded in the source of love.


Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff! I prefer to see those as "KPI's" of the real job... they're just measures of the real game. You need success in a lot of these areas to be an overall success, but the problem with idolizing one method of "doing Christianity" is that it then becomes the most important focus and you close yourself off to all the other avenues, ministry becomes lopsided and lopsided = easy to topple!

Andrew Mason said...

"We idolize ministry results and lose the focus needed to have those results in the first place." Well put Scott!

Sounds like "the tail starts waggin' the dog" when we shift from proper priorities to ministry results.

What do you make of the fact that leaders with big numbers always tend to be the main voices in church leadership dialogues?