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Thursday, October 4, 2012

"The Measure of Our Success" (Shawn Lovejoy)

TITLE: Measure of Our Success, The: An Impassioned Plea to Pastors
AUTHOR: Shawn Lovejoy
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012, (192 pages).

How do we measure success in ministry? Have Christian leaders used the wrong metrics to measure the spiritual fruits of ministry? Is it ok to use the measuring standards of the world and apply them to the Church? These questions and many more are answered in three ways. Firstly, Lovejoy gets up close and personal with the "standard measurements" of ministry success. Things like high activism and drivenness among ministry workers; the strong need for affirmation; the numbers game; the program focus; the three unhealthy Cs of comparing, of copying, and of condemning ministry work. Over time, if not understood properly, one will not only fail to keep up with maintaining the standard measurements, one will even fall badly.  

Secondly, the author works on redefining true success in terms of:
  1. Spiritual, emotional, relational, intellectual, and physical vitality
  2. People are our ministry; Loving them is our tapestry.
  3. Teamwork with people of character, care, clarity, conviction, and culture
  4. Willingness to pay the price to obey God rather than human preferences
  5. Dealing constructively with all kinds of criticisms
  6. Preventative measures to avoid casting the quitting card.

Thirdly, the author focuses on what really matters, and what needs to be the true measure of success in ministry. Instead of numerical growth, focus on conversion growth. Do not stuff oneself with spiritual meat without the corresponding fruit. Leaders need to spend time meaningfully with leaders or leaders to be, instead of aimless superficial mingling with crowds. Christology is first, not ecclesiology. In other words, we cannot kid ourselves by thinking that the Church is the vehicle of salvation for the world. It is Christ alone. Knowing when to step down is not a mark of failure. It is a mark of wisdom and spiritual success.

My Thoughts

Having a wrong metric will lead to erroneous use of precious resources in ministry. This book carries with it a crucial message for us. It is a necessary book for those of us interested in learning how to measure success in ministry. Personally, I do not like the word 'success.' It has too many connotations with worldly metrics. That said, the use of this word connects very well with all people. Moreover, I think it is basically used in a "for lack of a better word" sentiment. I appreciate the real world application aspect that comes at the end of every chapter. Prominent leaders like Larry Osborne, Mark Batterson, Steven Furtick, Tony Morgan, Chris Seay, Pete Wilson, and many more, provide helpful insights into the chapters offered by Shawn Lovejoy. It is like a book led by one central author, supported by contributors toward the same goal: moving away from false measurements toward true measurements of ministry success. Let me close with this wonderful words of Lovejoy.

"We must not seek to please people. We must please God.
We must not seek to fill auditoriums. We must fill heaven.
We must not seek fame. We must make Jesus famous.
We must not seek our agenda. We must proclaim his agenda.
We must not quit if we are called. We will quit if we are not.
The measure of our success is clear. It is laid out for us in Scripture. If we muddy the waters with our own desires and expectations, we will ultimately fail in the very thing we have given our lives to: our ministries." (180)
Can we do both? That is, both worldly success as well as spiritual success? I like to think we can, but the principle behind Matthew 6:24 seems to indicate only one way. Everyone likes to be a part of a growing church. The key question is not the numbers or the experience of being part of a vibrant body, but whether the Church is glorifying God. Beware of churches that shoot up quickly, but when the elements and the trials of life appear, members leave and that church wilts away.

This book may very well save you from falling into the treacherous potholes of ministry. It is not for the sake of our ministry that we need to adopt appropriate and healthy metrics for measuring our effectiveness and fruitfulness in ministry. It is for the sake of the world that we try to measure up to the godly standards that Jesus has put forth for us. That said, we can only do so much. It is the Holy Spirit that does the ultimate work: Pointing all to God.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications (Resourcing Leaders Program) without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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