I was privileged to be a senior pastor for more than eighteen years. I was driven by a passion to see people come into a relationship with Christ and develop into fully devoted followers of Jesus. These passions and a strong sense of calling were the driving forces behind my reason for entering the ministry. Thankfully, we were blessed to see many come to Christ who are still serving Him today. However, I wasn’t a pastor very long before I realized that the way my success was going to be measured by my denomination and peers was through numbers. I quickly learned I would be rewarded if our Sunday morning attendance and overall income were increasing, and we were paying our share of the denominational budget. I was blessed to have continuous growth in all of these areas for eighteen years, but what about the pastors who could not see this kind of growth? Were they failures?
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. These measurements should be a part of the overall picture, but they should not be the ultimate measurements determining whether a church or school is successful. Rather than passing out certificates to pastors and headmasters based on numerical increases in attendance and finances, what if we took a different approach? Let’s measure success by the number of eighteen-year-olds we release into the world each year who are devoted to Jesus and equipped to defend their faith and live it out in the culture. With this system of measurements, we would be closer to determining who is really successful, even if the church or school is small in size and income.
What if a church of fifty people had such a tremendous program to disciple children that they produced one or two eighteen-year-olds each year who were prepared to change the world for Christ? What if over ten years that small church produced fifteen of these young men and women? The church would be building long-term sustainability by retaining many of these young people and having a significant impact on the world by sending others beyond their community.
What if Christian schools stopped measuring success by the number of scholarship dollars their graduates received or the number of students accepted into prestigious colleges, and began measuring ultimate success by how many of their graduates deeply loved Christ and could stand for truth in our truthless culture? Large and small schools, including homeschools, would be measured by the same standard and could be genuinely successful no matter their size.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” I’m proposing we change the measurement paradigm by focusing our efforts on producing young people equipped to carry on the Christian faith to future generations. If we make this shift, God’s blessings will fall, and our stress levels will decrease. We will stop trying to be seen as successful and will actually become eternally successful. If you desire to refocus your church or school ministry toward this goal, we have excellent people and tools at Renewanation to help you with this effort. Please reach out to us at renewanation.org to learn more.
Jeff Keaton has been a successful pastor, church and school planter, and ministry entrepreneur. As the founder and CEO of Renewanation, Jeff works across the United States and Canada to help awaken the church to the great need to give every child a biblical worldview. Jeff is married to his high school sweetheart, Michele, and they have two daughters, two sons-in-law, and a grandson. He is the author of The Life of Radical Faith.