It’s a simple question with an elusive answer. Is it church attendance? Number of people baptized? The percentage of congregants in small groups? The amount of missions trips and service projects each year? A spiritual self-assessment test? The church budget?
For those who don’t like using numbers or statistics to measure success, how do you know if ministry is going well? When a ministry event comes to a close, how do you know if it was a win? Because it “felt good”? Because no one bailed out early or complained?
Success in discipleship is difficult to measure. I remember creating a “description of a discipled person” in my Bible college classes, only to find real-life discipleship is far messier and more unique and contextual than any classroom definitions. But I also recognize if we’re not aiming for anything, then we’re aiming for nothing.
It’s probably flawed, but here’s my definition: Followers are closer to Jesus now than they were then.
The difference between now and then may be three seconds, three weeks, three months, three years or three decades. The word “followers” indicates movement and action; these are disciples of Jesus, seekers of His kingdom, people moving in a spiritual trajectory instead of stagnant or wandering in circles. They may or may not be Christians. They’re simply on a journey toward Jesus. This brings up all sorts of questions for evaluating success. How was their relationship with Jesus a year ago? How is their relationship with Jesus today? What is the spiritual trajectory they’re on, and where do they need to go next?
What was ministry success for Jesus? He wanted His disciples to love God, love one another and love their neighbor. He desired they exhibit spiritual fruit. If a disciple is more loving, more joyful, more patient, more kind, more gooder (ha!), more faithful, more gentle and more self-controlled now than they were then, then they’re on the right path.
How do you define ministry success? How are you and Jesus doing now compared to then?