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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41 years ago today, our family immigrated to the United States from Seoul, South Korea. I was six years old; the youngest of three sons. My father, when he was also six, fled from what is now known as North Korea. Just recently, he shared with me that he and some of his family had been in a refugee camp when war and violence broke out on the Korean peninsula. It's emotional thinking about what my brothers and I went through coming to a completely foreign country. It wasn't easy. And then, I think about what my parents had to go through:

They fled their homes near Pyongyang which also meant leaving some of their extended families.

They experienced unfathomable hunger and poverty.

They experienced the pain of war.

They immigrated again to the United States as adults with minimal resources and a handful of English words.

All in hopes that their children would have the opportunities that were never afforded to them.

I'm thinking of my brothers today. I'm thinking of my parents and honoring them for their sacrifice and tenacity. And finally, I'm thinking of refugees and immigrants all around the world that are yearning for family, peace, hope, and opportunities. Don't reduce Martin Luther King Jr. to a yearly quote on social media. Live out the dream. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Confront evil. Be a truth-teller. Seek justice. Love mercy. Pursue reconciliation. Build bridges. Love your neighbors. Forgive your enemies. Pray unceasingly. Live a committed life of peace, love, and justice.

The God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today.

Be brave. "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.

Here's the full context of his famous quote: "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that." An important word for the Church... Oh, how God loves the nations. The Scriptures make this so clear. No one - let alone, the leader of a country - should ever disparage other nations with such a disgusting comment.

To the beautiful people of Haiti, El Salvador, and of the many countries of Africa: We are so sorry. Please accept our apologies on behalf of President Trump.

I've had the privilege of being in Haiti twice and numerous countries in Africa including Kenya where I took this picture during an afternoon drive near Kijabe. In many of these visits, I witnessed such creativity, courage, leadership, hospitality and kindness. To follow Jesus without obedience, repentance, self-denial, and dying to self is an oxymoron. In other words, are we more in love with the idea of following Jesus than actually following Jesus?

Grateful for an incredible Sunday at @seattlequest of beginning our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting.

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