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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"He Makes All Things New." In other words, Christ is our eternal hope. I'm sitting in my swinging bench on the comforts of my front porch after an exhilarating and exhausting day at church. It never gets tiring, stale, or old to preach and proclaim the good news of the Gospel - not just on Resurrection Sunday but every week as we gather as the body of Christ.

But it was this picture of Coptic Christians in Egypt pouring into churches on Easter Sunday that deeply moved my heart...just a week after two churches were bombed by ISIS terrorists taking 45 lives and injuring hundreds.

Even in the face of persecution and suffering, I'm so grateful for the witness of these sisters and brothers in Christ. May they be comforted and strengthened...and wherever you are reading this post, stay encouraged. Be faithful and steadfast. Don't give up. May we keep running the race set before us as we fix our eyes on Christ.

It's not just there. It's all over the world...God is still at work. The Holy Spirit is still moving. God is not yet done. There's only one explanation: 
Christ has risen! He has risen, indeed! Jesus is alive! Hallelujah! #OneChurch Remember, there is no Resurrection without the Crucifixion; No Easter Sunday without Passion Friday; No empty tomb without the Cross.

So, before we move too swiftly to the celebration of the risen Christ, may we sit at the foot of the Cross...and consider the depths of His sacrifice and love. "Oh, what love is this..." Just when we think we get what it means to follow Him, Jesus washes the feet of His disciples including...the one He knew would betray Him,

and the one that would deny him,

and the others that would abandon Him in His greatest need.

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What amazing grace. Oh. What. Amazing. Grace. M(inhee) + E(ugene). Not taking anything for granted. 20 years = 7300 days = 175,200 hours. A flourishing  marriage doesn't just happen. The idea that two Christians who choose to get married will produce a Christ honoring marriage is a gigantic myth. Its also extremely dangerous. The truth is that it takes so much intentionality and work. Intimacy definitely includes physical touch but is not only about physical touch. We have to pray, read, listen, learn, mutually submit, confess, forgive, repent, laugh, dream, rest, play, and the list goes on.

In other words, we have to keep Christ at the center because it's inevitable, there's a lot of messing up. So much messing up. It's both beautiful and painful and without grace, it's impossible.

Grateful. Thank you, Jesus, for your grace. And thank you, Minhee...

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