Tuesday 31 January 2012

Measuring success

Well done, good and faithful servant.

These are words every Christian longs to hear. Success can be seen as a very loaded term as it is increadibly subjective. Yet we slip into measuring, rewarding and boasting success so easily and apply our world view to the measure. By doing so, what can be a great success for some is a dramatic disappointment for others and vice versa. Just take any football match, for example, it's only a success if your side wins!

For some industries, success and failure are black and white (or used to be), such as in banking, for example, where a successful year would be measured by how the balance sheet looked (although that's probably a bad example, given the current climate!). For athletes the ultimate measure of success would probably be competing (and winning) an Olympic medal.

So what is success in mission? How is it measured and what should we celebrate it? Should we celebrate it at all?

As I travel and meet more and more people involved in full time Christian service I find that the measure of success varies greatly. The easiest way to see what people's view of success is, is to attend a few meetings. More often than not, the leader of the meeting will be abundantly clear by body language, tone of voice and message whether the message they are bringing is positive or negative. Also, positive/success messages are often celebrated with clapping and cheering.

Many will celebrate success by number of volunteers/staff working for the mission. Some will measure it by how the finances are looking. Others will mark it by the output (number of outreaches/schools/activities).

This week, as some of us in YWAM are gathering to chat about how we can serve those working as volunteers in Africa better. Many of us are starting to feel really feel challenged not to measure our success in any of the above ways. Rather, spend time asking God where he is leading us, and try to be obedient to what He calls us to do. Only when we have achieved this, can we speak about success. And, of course, when we do that, we can only give the glory to God, as He did the work for us, we just obeyed.

Walking in obedience sometimes means going into the hardest places with the least support and little-to-no recognition. It means humbling yourself and serving - raising others up, not yourself.

Yet despite all this, as I sit and listen to the stories of people who have given up everything to serve overseas, I see how God has given them the strength, ability and will power to complete the tasks He has set before them. I see how they are simply men and women living extraordinary lives because of the God they serve. I hear about many miracles and examples of provision and guidance in some incredibly difficult circumstances - yet these stories are told without cheering but rather a deep sense of joy and hope. What a God we serve that allows us to journey with him like this!

So, how will I know if I've been successful?

When my God says: well done good and faithful servant.

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