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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These are crazy, turbulent times. Fight the good fight. Run the race set before us.

But we also need you for the long haul. Don't burn out. Discipleship and justice work is a marathon. Learn to take care of yourself. Don't play the victim. It's far too tempting to blame others. Be rooted in prayer, Scripture, and community. It's okay to pause, critical to rest and retreat, and godly to practice Sabbath.

#NoteToSelf Everyone loves the idea of  reconciliation...until it involves truthtelling, confessing, repenting, dismantling, forgiving, and peacemaking. Charlottesville. So heartbreaking and infuriating. We weep and mourn over the hatred in the hearts of these white nationalists. We weep and mourn but we can't be defeated.

As I stare at this photo that's making its round on the internet, I'm reminded of the utter importance of showing up. I'm grateful for the news media, law enforcement, clergy, and peaceful protesters that are currently there to report, protect, pray, and protest.

And this is an invitation to us. May we not be mere bystanders. May we keep pressing forward. Seek justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly. Commit to truth-telling, justice, reconciliation, peacemaking. Follow the ways of Christ. Every day. And it's important to note that we don't have to go to Charlottesville to do this. In fact, it's more important that we do this exactly where we're at. May we live out the call to reconciliation in our churches, workplaces, neighborhoods, schools, and around our dining tables. Lord, may it be so... We don't have to go to Charlottesville to do this. We have to do this wherever were called to be.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. /// Thanks to those who let me know that the photo wasn't actually from today but rather from last month in Charlottesville. - https://www.facebook.com/FrankSomervilleKTVU/posts/1551137301616258:0 Grateful for a spontaneous, last minute trip with Minhee to my old stomping grounds - San Francisco. 48 hours of visiting this special city that I called home for so many years.

Pic 1: Went to the Cliff House restaurant where we got engaged about 21 years ago to make out. Oops, sorry, I meant...to reflect on God's faithfulness over these many years.

Pic 2: Walked across the Golden Gate Bridge because it's such an iconic place - with some of the most incredible views.

Pic 3: Enjoyed a glass of some Cabernet Sauvignon and pretended to be wine connoisseurs at a vineyard.

Pic 4: Had lunch at my favorite Chinese restaurant, Sam Tung, which boasts some of the best chicken in the country. And of course, we ate at In-n-out.

Pic 5: And finally, celebrated with the good folks at @thefreedomstory where @onedayswages received their annual Freedom Award. What an honor.

Grateful. Thankful for this sabbatical. Breathe.

Show yourself some grace.

We can't do everything for everyone in every situation. Do what you can and do it with a joyful heart.

Amen A family that eats sushi together stays together.

Seriously, I don't ever remember eating so much as a teenager but these kids eat and eat and eat. Perhaps, the reason why this kid is pushing 6 feet tall. Grateful for a special treat with the family at @JaponessaSeattle.

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