Eugene Cho

defining success as a pastor and leader

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

Here are some of my thoughts:

We regularly hold this in tension, don’t we? The Scriptures in themselves don’t define success for pastors…very successfully. It shares to some extent what leaders ought to be doing and how but to my reading, it doesn’t elaborate on the metrics by which we “assess” ourselves and yet, we all live in a culture – including the church culture – where we have both codified and mostly un-codified metrics that determine what “successful” pastors look like.

And thus, we live in this constant tension.  Having said that, I try to live out my faith and calling through these questions and categories:

Relationships

  • How is my relationship with the Triune God?
  • How is my relationships with my wife and children? I can’t fake this. My relationship with my wife impacts so much.
  • How is my relationship with my staff? I need to invest in my staff so that they in turn, can invest in others.
  • How is my relationship with my church?
  • How is my relationship with my neighbors and my larger city?

My three main responsibilities as a pastor:

  • Teach well. Am I teaching and preaching Christ crucified? Am I preaching the whole Scripture and Gospel with clarity, conviction, and boldness? Am I directing people to the gospel?
  • Lead well. Am I leading the church and our community towards our holistic vision of soul, community, justice and compassion, and global presence. Am I leading people to the gospel so that they are living out the gospel? Am I leading with transparency? Am I leading with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
  • Care well. Am I caring for people? People vs Programs. Am I praying for people? Am I caring for the sick? Am I accessible? Am I reaching out to people?

And on a regular basis, I also ask myself these three questions during my heart-check walks:

  • Who are you?
  • Who do you serve?
  • Where are you going?

So, while I don’t use the word “success” to define myself, I assess how faithful I have been to the list above.

Thoughts? How do you gauge your “success” or “faithfulness?”

Sometime this month, I’ll share with you how I process the tension and possible idolatry of … numbers.

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15 Responses

  1. I agree that success can be such a elusive measure,so much of its premise is at war with the gospel story.

    Seems like for pastors, its usually a group of people who come from places of success before they begin “professional ministry”. You have to have some level of charisma, popularity, admiration and successy stuff like that to try and lead a voluntary group where people give money and resources instead of profit.

    So you have a successful person trying to lead and lead well a people that by definition are attempting to be those who give thier lives away for the sake of an often invisible God. Mind bender.

    BTW, if you still need a tent, I got one for you

  2. Andy says:

    I think the most successful pastor and leader is one where when someone is at the bottom of bottoms they know they can call that person and they will be there soon pointing to God.

    If they can’t do this. What Gospel are they preaching?

  3. Bryan says:

    One way to define success might be having the unusual ability to “borrow” tents and being part of a ministry that is sending tents to haiti at the same time.

    Or maybe that’s the definition of persuasiveness.

    Not sure where the icon for tongue-in-cheek is, but please insert here.

  4. Bryan says:

    Not sure the definition of success, but the definition of persuasive is asking to “borrow” a tent the same week you are giving tents to Haiti.

    (not sure where the tongue-and-cheek icon is, but insert here)

  5. Rick in Texas says:

    The mission statement I have held for 17 years of pastoral ministry calls me:
    To build …
    • Vibrant faith in Christ,
    • Joy-filled living, and
    • Active influence
    … into the people whose lives I am privileged to touch.

    It gets specific in terms of relationships, as your does: to God, wife and children, friends, church, kingdom, and self.

    http://ricklindholtz.blogspot.com/2006/02/vision.html

    I think what you have is excellent Eugene. I’m copying and keeping it on file. Thanks!

  6. Great question to grapple with. I often tell people that a good leader is one who enables others to become all that God intends them to be. I think that our greatest satisfaction should be in seeing others succeed not in our own “success”

    • Eugene Cho says:

      christine: absolutely agree.

    • Mike says:

      I couldn’t agree more with this basic “definition” of successful leadership, Christine. It’s interesting to me that (in my experience) leaders who disagree with you are basically looking out for themselves and view the type of leaders who agree with you as weak. IMO, the leader in the former group are not leaders at all and generally “succeed” by controlling those around them and taking credit rather than giving credit where it’s due. They tend to be driven by the fear of losing their position of leadership. The leader in the latter group (those who agree with you) are not leaders by title, position or their own claim but because people love to be lead by them.

  7. Chet Galaska says:

    A successful pastor is able to bring people to Christ and deepen the strength of those who believe. The relationships and responsibilities you mentioned are all components to this, but if the pastor is unable to personally persuade and demonstrate his faith through his demeanor and the way he lives, none of them means anything.

    There are pastors who chose this career for the wrong reasons (anything besides a burning desire to serve Christ is a wrong reason) and they’re left with no metrics except those that are quanitifiable, like membership or campus size.

    Your personal impact on people – and you may not even know some of your successes – is what defines your effectiveness. It’s hard to quantify, but the people you minister to know when you’ve succeeded.

  8. […] read this on a blog It is going to be added to my journal as something to process through when I think about life and […]

  9. […] Cho wrote an excellent article on defining success as a pastor. It is a tough tension to live in. Here are the questions he asks […]

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One Day’s Wages

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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. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
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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