Eugene Cho

how do you define success as a pastor? leader? church?

This upcoming Saturday is our church’s annual meeting – an important meeting as we look back and dream forward. Inevitably, one of the questions you think about (and are asked by others) involves the “health of the church.”

I have my answers (which I’ll share later) but I’d love to hear your thoughts:

  • How do you define success as a pastor or ministry leader?
  • How do you define success as a church?
  • What are the “metrics” we should consider?

Go.

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20 Responses

  1. Andy M says:

    Are you helping to build character and integrity, and unleash creative potential inherent in every human being?

    In other words, transformation. In my opinion, success is based on that question. Now, to expand that question, because there are thoughts in my head that work behind that question that are important.

    First, the question assumes community. Because I believe that true transformation requires being in community with other people. Character and Creativity must be set in the context of community, with people who will challenge you and affirm you.

    Second, building character is a must before creativity. Being a person of character and integrity means that you can be trusted with the full measure of the gifts God has placed within you. Talent without integrity is dangerous. God gives responsibility to those who have integrity.

    Third, to build character and integrity, you must show humility. You build character and integrity by serving others and being faithful in the little things of life.

    I believe that Jesus was divine, but yet that he hid away his divinity, and the brilliance that he showed as recorded in scripture was him being fully human. A human operating at his fullest capacity of creativity, driven by character, integrity and humility, having grown up in a culture with a huge emphasis on community. That is our guide for success.

  2. danielktaylor says:

    obedience. As a spectacularly mediocre church planter, I had to make that decision a while ago. We have other metrics in terms of the work we do, but first, second, and third are obedience.

  3. Mike says:

    The Covenant has fabulous resources for examining and building church vitality (cf. Veritas http://tiny.cc/Z2azq). A minimum prerequisite is a willingness to embrace the process (i.e. open to transformation) of becoming a healthy missional church. To me it’s a matter of loving God and loving others with an outward focus. Some churches seem to follow these two commandments but their focus is internal — programs for the sake of programs, fiefdoms, controlling leadership. This is ultimately a selfish attitude and precludes the kind of transformation @AndyM mentions. Focussing outward allows a church to be the Church in a community.

  4. Scott M. says:

    “How do you define success as a pastor or ministry leader?”

    The success of a pastor or ministry leader can be quite a broad term to define. Some people think a successful pastor is someone who has a church membership of thousands. For others, it’s near unlimited resources (finances) to help the community in a variety of ways. Perhaps for others, real success for a pastor is being able to connect to people from all difference backgrounds and relate to them.

    There are many more answers that can be given in response to this question. These answers, in some ways, are quite valid, but without preaching the true gospel of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and the work of atonement for our sinful nature, there really is no success even if a pastor achieves all three of those terms mentioned above.

    Personally, I would define a pastor as “successful” if he preaches the gospel as it should be preached; fully understanding what the gospel means from a Biblical perspective as it is the only perspective that matters in the end. The gospel is the key to success, not just for a pastor or ministry leader, but for a true Christian.

    “How do you define success as a church?”
    Like the same question above, a number of answers can be given to describe a successful church. Maybe a church whose members tithe every month without fail as the Bible commands them to. Maybe success as a church is defined by open acceptance and tolerance of those who do not share the same faith or theological point of view. And of course reaching out to and serving the hurt, lost, and lonely in our communities.

    But I think true success for a church is an unshakable foundation built on the good news of Jesus Christ. Without Christ we have nothing at all. No love, no mercy, no peace and no hope. How can we as a church expect to reach out to the lost without even knowing the true gift from God ourselves? We’re commanded to love one another, but we all know that is so much easier said than done. That’s why Jesus is key. Through Jesus’ selfless sacrifice for us can we build on that and be encouraged by His example. That is why a successful church is based on Christ and what He has done on our behalf.

    “What are the “metrics” we should consider?”

    The only “metrics” that should even be considered are Jesus and the Word of God. You cannot have one without the other and you certainly cannot have success if either one are missing from the equation. On top of that, what good is the Word if a church or a pastor do not believe it is the perfect, infallible, inerrant Word of God? What good is Jesus if the church and pastor do not believe He is fully God and fully man? The Bible is very clear on both of these issues.

    1) God’s Word is perfect and never changes. If it did change that means it was not perfect and that would make God a liar and we know that He is most certainly not.

    2) Jesus is God. Who else could perfectly atone for our sins, fulfilling the law as it was intentionally written, and bring us back to God as He originally intended when He made us? No one but the God-Man, Jesus. God the Son came down, took up an earth suit and lived among His creation. And the fact that He rose from the dead after surrendering His life for us is the greatest gift we could ever receive in this lifetime.

    All in all, Jesus and the Word of God are crucial to a successful church. With that, most everything falls into place. It won’t ever be perfect, but we as true believers in Jesus Christ are not naïve enough to believe it ever will be whilst we live on this planet.

  5. Daniel says:

    obedience, even to the point of willing to suffer for the name of Jesus

    equipping people to live out what they learn and to live it out with the people around them

    community that seeks the leading of the Spirit, and embracing the change or challenge that might be required from that

    humility, mutuality

    by how we first treat our sisters and brothers, and by how we treat our neighbor

  6. Linda says:

    Someone recently pointed me to Colossians 3:23-24 as a definition of success. “Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” If I, in all my relationships and roles, have this as my north star, then I can ask God to (Ps 25: 4 & 5) show me His ways, teach me His paths, guide me in His truth and I will experience His success every day no matter what my life looks like to those who measure and assess.

  7. Bryan says:

    I am wondering if the metrics, generally speaking, are the same for a pastor, a church, as well as for any individual person.

    1. Am I living my life in a way that God create me for and called me to?
    2. Am I spiritually and relationally vibrant?
    3. Am I engaged in making the “world” a better place?

    Though I think that is kind of simplistic, “success” to me be measured best against what it is that I am created for and called to.

    I suppose the tougher question, for me, is to figure out the specifics to my 3 metrics and not compare them to others.

  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Eugene Cho, Dave Ingland. Dave Ingland said: RT @EugeneCho: Blog discussion: How do you define success as a pastor? leader? as a church? – http://bit.ly/4Iae44 […]

  9. RjL says:

    1 – Success as a pastor: Faithfulness
    2 – Success as a church: Developing Faithful Disciples
    3 – Metrics: Not sure we can measure, nor is it our place to.

    Really interested in your thoughts, but those would be my quick hits.

  10. Art says:

    Man’s view of success: Attendance, Buildings & Cash.

    God’s view of success: Plant & water. Trust & obey.

  11. Eugene Cho says:

    So many good thoughts which is why I think it’s so hard for pastors/leaders to answer that question.

    I chime in with some thoughts this upcoming week.

  12. Andrea Catlett says:

    I thought I had many ideas of what success is for a pastor/ministry leader and the church, but once I sat down and thought about it like Eugene said its so hard for pastors/leaders to answer that question. This morning I was reading Luke 9:48 in The Message and I thought it was applicable. “You become great by accepting, not asserting, Your spirit, not your size, makes the difference.” This passage is referencing accepting children,or one who has a child like spirit, but I think it is applicable to the questions asked. We become great by accepting. Jesus accepts us and we should show that same acceptance to others. Also taken in a different light it doesn’t matter how big the size of our church/ministry is. What matters is our spirit.
    Truthfully, I guess this morning I had a greater revelation that the Bible has all the answers in how to be a successful Ministry Leader. (I do not.) If we are following Christ then we are a success. It doesn’t matter what the world may determine as success; we are a success as we follow him.

  13. Jen says:

    I’ve been doing a lot of Wendell Berry reading lately and have been exploring one of his themes of good work. Following Berry’s thought, good work, such as good farming, is work that produces quality fruit that will last a long time and that will not do damage to the land. Good work is particular to a particular place and is patient with the process. Kyle Childress has a great article on those parallels with pastoring in a book of essays called Wendell Berry and Religion. All that to say, I think those we can learn a great deal from Berry’s train of thought on good work.

    • Scott M. says:

      Good works take a backseat to God’s grace though. After all, salvation isn’t earned by anything we do no matter how much “good” we accomplish; it’s given to us freely by God.

      I’d be wary to put too much emphasis on good works mainly because people (Catholics, Moslems, celebrities, government officials, etc.) tend to be stuck in a “do-goodism” mentality and try to add to God’s grace when it is already sufficient by itself. So in that sense, I would disagree. Good works alone mean absolutely nothing.

      It’s all about Jesus’ death and resurrection and God’s gift of grace because of His perfect sacrifice. Isn’t salvation the number one priority of a pastor? To reach the lost and hopeless by sharing the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ?

      This is the only standard that a pastor’s success should ever be measured by. And as I said in a previous post, most everything else will fall into place according to God’s will.

  14. […] This is a follow up to the post from last month where I asked you to define “success” as a pastor and leader. […]

  15. Rod Huron says:

    In the Christian Minister’s Manual I wrote, “We can partake of Jesus’ almost incredible world view. He went about His work in the calm assurance that above and behind and around him was a Heavenly Father; infinitely pure, infinitely good, and infinitely powerful. Unshaken by opposition, misunderstanding, weariness, and rejection, Jesus trusted His life and work to God, believing that God’s purpose would ultimately prevail…. May we walk in His footsteps.”

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As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
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And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
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She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer.

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