Dr. Mike Murphy
His resume was different from all the rest they had received. And as they looked it over, they did not know what to make of it. Many time he had been arrested, and he had spent large parts of his life in and out of prison. Several times, the people had become so angry with him that he was run out of town. He had never spoken on television, or even had a podcast. He did not have a webpage, or even a Facebook page for that matter. He did not own a house, and never seemed to stay in one place very long. He would often take on side jobs just so he could support himself. He would sometimes keep preaching for hours, although he was not known as a skilled public speaker. And on top of it all, he often found himself in the middle of local and public controversies.
How could this man possibly think he would qualify as the pastor of a church? Much less a larger church that wanted to become a megachurch. Did he even realize what job he was applying for? As they tossed his resume in the trash with a laugh, they thought to themselves, he could not even be hired as their janitor!
In my fictional scenario, would you hire this man as the pastor of your church? Would you even take him seriously, or would you never give him a second thought? Do you believe this is the type of man that God would send to lead your church? Or would you automatically dismiss him, thinking God would never send to you such a man? What if I told you the resume of the man I described above, was the very man God chose to help set up His church. That the resume of the man above is none other than that of Paul.
During Paul’s time in the ministry, he faced these very questions. During the early days of the Church, many false teachers started carrying forged letters of recommendation to authenticate their authority, so they would be welcomed into different churches. When Paul was asked about his letters of recommendation, he replied in a very simple way. His letter of recommendation did not come from the hand of a man, but at the hand of the Holy Spirit. Paul made it clear, the success and authority of his ministry could be seen by the lives that had been changed for Christ, not by the letters that had been written by men.
Today’s Church needs to take the words of Paul again to heart, and realize that how man tries to defines success, and how God views and constitutes success, are two completely different things. God does not look at our churches today and see success in the elaborate buildings we try to build, the budgets we try to meet, or the television and online appearances of our pastoral staffs. God sees success in the lives we reach for Christ, the fellowship we share in Christ, and the growth we experience through Christ.
We are watching as our churches today try to define success through man’s eyes, and in doing so, make of themselves a failure in God’s eyes. A couple of years ago, I was asked to help a church that was struggling. To help give input and direction in a meeting with the board of the church, in hopes of helping the church set a path for success. With the church being at a distance away, I was connected via video with the board as they met. I asked the board if they would list for me their one year, five year, and ten year goals for the church. I heard almost everything in response. They wanted to double the attendance. They wanted to build a new sanctuary. They wanted to start new programs. They wanted to build an activities center. So as they told me all the goals of the church, I asked them another question. “What is God’s goals for this church in the next one year, five years, and ten years?” Dead silence to my question. They had no clue what direction God wanted their church to go, nor had they turned to God for this direction. This was a church that had not learned the definition of success. That could only envision success through their own eyes, not allowing themselves to be shown what success for their church looked like through the eyes of God.
We watch as many of our churches today define success by the caramel lattes and mocha cappuccinos that are offered as you walk in the door, and how plush and cushioned the seats are on our pews. But as we nap between sips of our latte during the service, we miss the call to success that the Lord is giving to our churches. Success cannot be seen if we accomplish our will, but only seen when we fulfill His will. Not heard in the praises of our own glory, but heard each time we bring Him glory. Not felt in the temporary emotions we get as the laser and smoke generators simulate our sermons, but in the life-changing emotions that come through the raw power of His Word.
Christ defined success for the Church in the simplest of ways. When asked what was the greatest of commandments, Christ answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31). In this answer, Christ defined success. When we obey God, and follow His command, our life will be successful. When we accept the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, the first step in success begins! And as we live our lives for Christ, His glory is seen and grows, not our own. As followers of Christ, the fruit of the Spirit is seen in each of us(Galatians 5:22-23), serving as nourishment in our Lord’s hands to all those around us. And as we grow in Christ, we have a desire to not just think of ourselves, but to love our fellow man. This success is not accomplished by our will, but by the will of the Holy Spirit(John 1:12-13). This is true success, and it is actually that simple!
Success through Christ shows us that our joy comes from our service to the Lord, how we can better and closer follow His Word, and how we can reach out with that Word to others. True success cannot be seen in the money, power, or popularity this world will offer us. The success of this world will leave us as an eternal failure. Leaving us asking the question, “What good does it do to gain the whole world if we forfeit our soul?’(Matthew 16:26). No matter how hard this world might try, success can never be seen in the gifts, it can only be seen in the One who gives us those gifts. And if we find ourselves desiring the gifts more than their Giver, then we find ourselves as unsuccessful as any man can be.
This Church has lost the very dictionary that defines for us true success. We look at our pulpits and see success in the man who tells us that if we want to know the rest of what God has told him, then we need to go buy his book for $29.95. We measure success in what this world shows us, building ten million dollar fountains to stand in front of our churches, hoping it will shine as a beacon to draw people to our services. We install light shows and special effects to dazzle this world during our services, in hope that we will somehow catch their attention. But in all this we have lost our focus, and forgotten that there is only One reason they will want to read more, only One reason they will want to come to our churches more, and only One thing that can cause them to be wowed at our services more. The more this Church reflects Christ, the more we will become successful.
Christ told us, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”(Matthew 6:21). Where is our treasure Church? Where is our heart? Does it lie the desires of this world, or does it rest in the hands of our Lord? Because where our heart is, where our treasure is stored, will be where our success will be found. Will our treasure be found in men who seek to use God for their own glory? Or will our hearts be with those men like Paul? Those who this world see no success in, but who measure their success by how much glory their lives have brought to our Lord? It is within these questions that the success or failure of this Church will soon be found.
It is time this Church got back to a simple definition of success. Simply defined by the sheep we feed, by the love we show, by the hearts we touch, by the truth we share, and by the faithfulness of our walk in following Christ. If this Church will just focus on these simple things, then we will be seen as successful in God’s eyes already. And when our time on this earth is done, we will hear the six most successful words any man could ever hear spoken. Well done, good and faithful servant!
Praying this hurch will one day soon hear those six words!