Reevaluating Church Success

For the first time in 21 years the Pittsburgh Pirates are in the playoffs. Success! Well, maybe. Success is relative. This is considered a winning season because the Pirates won 58% of their games. Now, if they were in school their report card would have been an F. Good thing its just a game, right?

I want to talk about our definition of success. We often have lofty goals and expectations for ourselves, and our churches. But do we expect too much? When it comes to sports, a little accomplishment goes a long way. A winning season is just barely a winning season. They by no means dominated baseball with 94 wins and 68 losses. The chances that you watched them win at home this year were about 63%. I mean, if there was a 63% chance of rain you might think twice about a picnic!

How about the players? Andrew McCutchen is their best batter and he is lucky if he gets a hit three out of 10 times at bat. He fails a little over seven times out of 10. This year he batted 583 times. One hundred and one times he struck out and 21 times he homered. Their best pitcher, A.J. Burnett, has lost 11 games and only won 10 and for that he makes $82 million over 5 years! Ok, enough statistics, I think you get my point: success is relative.

That brings me back to our expectations. People expect a high degree of “success” in their church. The pastor better have a lot of strike-outs from the preachers-mound, the worship team ought to have a home run with every song. And the cost of the tickets, err, I mean tithes and offerings, ought to be reasonable. And when the team is in a slump, I often see a migration of the fans, I mean congregants, to other perceived winning teams.

I think we need to redefine a church-win. If it’s evangelism success lets think of Isaiah. He was told success would be people who, “hear but don’t understand; see but don’t perceive.” (Isaiah 6:9)  Maybe success is membership? Well, Jesus started with 12 disciples. By the resurrection there were 11. He then appeared to over 500 but ten days after his ascension only 120 people were awaiting his promised gift at Pentecost.

Church success takes teamwork. And church success often resembles the averages of baseball teams. So don’t neglect your team. The Pirates previously lacked success because they consistently lost their best players to other teams. So stick to your team. Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

Additionally, stay focused and constant even with bad averages. Nine players win a ballgame; a dozen apostles changed the world. What can your small team accomplish for Christ? Stick with your team-church, encourage your leaders, keep to the vision God has given for the team, obey His Word and you will find godly success.

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