You know, we often are told that we need to be successful, that we need to do well, and that we need to be… well… successful (read rich, powerful, famous, in charge). But I really want to ask the question, what does that mean when you look at it from the perspective of someone inside the Kingdom of God? If you and I are to look back on our lives, at the end, and say – “I led a life of success.” – what is that going to look like?
Let’s talk about a general description of success
It seems, if we simply look around, and by that I mean we go to Google and look for success, there is an idea that success is doing something amazing, that we have to not simply live a life that benefits the people around us, or simply means that we raise out kids well, and are able to make life better for them, or to be faithful to our spouse, to be honest in our jobs, and to pay all of our bills. Instead we have to invent Facebook, we have to become a billionaire by the time we get to 35 (I’m WAY behind on that one), we have to have built our own company, be our own boss, travel to exotic destinations whenever we want, by new cars, live in the best suburbs, because that is what it means to be successful. You can’t just own a house, you have to own a brand new, built to spec house. You can’t just have a car to get you to work, you have to have the latest car. You can’t just work at a job faithfully, you must always be looking to be the boss, to advance, you have to be ambitious.
That is, as I see it, a quick snapshot of the mindset that defines success for us – success is being rich and famous.
Let’s talk about how we’ve ‘Christian-ized’ it.
“You guys are going to be rock stars for Jesus!” I heard someone tell a young couple who had just started in ministry. This statement typifies how we have taken this ‘rich and famous’ definition of success and baptised it by adding the words ‘for Jesus’ on then end of it. Our goal is to be rich and famous for Jesus, so that then we can use all of our wealth and fame to let everyone know that they need Jesus, and then everyone will love Jesus, and we will save the whole world (sense the cynicism).
Just so that we are all on the same page, Jesus doesn’t need our money, or our platform, or our twitter followers. He doesn’t need us to drive a better car so that certain people will listen to us. He owns all of the stuff anyway – he is God, he is the creator and sustainer of the whole cosmos, it is all his, and he graciously allows us to use some of it, if he wanted to, he could take it all away tomorrow.
So, now we have Christian celebrities, who are measured by their Twitter following, and we have celebrity pastors who are judged successful if they have thousands of people in their congregations, and we have Christian rock stars. We have the people who are worthy and the people who are not, the ones who are REALLY following Jesus, and the rest of us, who just live life like boring people. Is this the right way to be? Do we really need to put that pressure on people? Do we need our ministers coming out of college feeling that in order to be worthy they have to grow their church to 1000 people in the first 6 months or they are abject failures? Do we need to push people into thinking that they are ready for that platform when they have a whole lot of growing up to do? Should we have senior pastors in their early 20s when Jesus started his ministry at the age of 30?
Do we need to look again at our definition of success? Let’s look at that in the next post.
Question: How do you define success? What are your markers?
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