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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This was 10 years ago. I dominated my son in wrestling and I know what you're thinking, "How could you employ a rear chokehold armbar kimura on your own son?" Hey, a competition is a competition.

I love you, son. The world is broken. This ia a sad truth. But the story of redemption is not yet finished. God is not yet done. This is the ultimate Truth. Have hope. Press on. Ten years ago, I witnessed one of those "God things" when a church called Interbay Covenant Church gave itself, its legacy, and a building property worth $7 million dollars to @seattlequest. We were then only 5 years old.

Quest is an urban, multiethnic churchplant that started in 2001. We rented the facilities at Interbay Covenant Church - a predominantly older, mostly Anglo congregation with a rich 65 years history. After some time, Pastor Ray Bartel (senior pastor, Interbay) approached me with a "crazy idea" of Interbay "dying to itself and giving itself to Quest" for the sake of the greater Kingdom and the coming generations.

This eventually led to three years of many conversations and prayers. On June 3, 2007, the two churches officially came together to become one church. In giving itself, Interbay also shared their leadership, legacy, and stories. They also gave all of their assets without any strings and without any debt.

Their radical generosity and courage is what enabled Quest to grow - not just numerically - but deeper in discipleship, and deeper in missions - to the city of Seattle and beyond. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of this merger, we created a short film (check my FB page to see the video) to tell the story - so that our church and the next generations may never forget and that the larger Church may be stirred and encouraged by a greater Kingdom vision.

Thank you, Interbay! The NBA season is over but the hustle and grind continues for my daughter. We argue sometimes but I love training my daughter. She's working hard for her senior year next year. Starting point guard. She's improved a lot. She's one of the quickest players on the floor and has a great midrange jumper. But trying to get her to keep working on her handles, using her off hand and shoulder to protect the ball,  staying and dribbling the ball lower to the ground, and playing aggressive and downhill while remaining in control. That's what we're working on this week. #hoopdreams #ChovarBall Reunited with my favorite elephant, Buh'loom. We bonded earlier this year and I'd like to think that she recognized my voice. Also, appreciate learning about ethical and sustainable eco-tourism. Anywhere. Everywhere. Night markets are the best.

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