This is the first week of our congregation-wide study of Unbinding Your Heart. So far, we have around 120 people participating in small groups and a few more who are following the 40 days of prayer and study individually. As our kids like to say, “that’s AWESOME!” I see a church that is open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in a powerful way. I also see a dedicated group of leaders who have spent a lot of time in preparation and prayer. Even though we are just getting started, it already feels like a huge success.
It feels good to see months of prayer and planning bearing fruit. But what does it really mean to “be successful” in an undertaking such as Unbinding Your Heart? Of course, one of the first things we look at is the numbers. How many people are participating? How many small groups are meeting? Is it making a difference worship attendance? In the offering?
It is an all-too-human tendency to focus on statistics to the exclusion of spiritual realities. However, numbers often do not tell the whole story. In fact, dwelling on the numbers can distract us from the real ministry and mission to which God has called us. When Jesus said, “Seek ye first the things of the Kingdom and all of these other things will be added unto you…” he really meant what he was saying.
Perhaps it is better for us to ask this question, both individually and as a congregation: From a Kingdom perspective, what does it mean to be successful? Does it mean to have a church full of people? Money enough to generously provide for ourselves and others? Lots of children and youth? Certainly, all those things are desirable. In fact, that’s all that many Christians can think about. And… it’s killing churches left and right.
A pastor in Canada, who wrote a sermon on this subject, told this story: “At a recent workshop, a woman was talking excitedly about the growth that was taking place in her church. Another participant asked her what was the key to that congregational growth. ‘I think we really started to have success when we stopped having success,’ she answered. ‘We had fear that we might fail; we were trying too hard to be successful where we were. When we let go of our fear, and of our need to succeed, then God started helping us to succeed!’”
The point is, we are not called to be successful, but to be faithful. We are called to “love God with heart, soul, strength, and mind” and “to love our neighbors as ourselves.” THAT is success. And, not surprisingly, THAT is the beginning of everything else good, as well.
May God bless us with real success as we begin these 40 days of prayer and dedication to God!