What is success in ministry? How can it be measured?
That’s a tough question to answer because competing principles are at play.
1. Measuring the supernatural? Supernatural fruitfulness cannot always be measured.
2. Success equals faithfulness. One of our most important criteria for success should be whether or not a man is faithfully preaching the Word and living a life of conformity to the Word.
3. More than heads in attendance. The number of people attending a church is not the only factor to be considered, but how much members are growing in holiness, how many leaders are being raised up, how many members are leaving for the mission field, and so forth. Such factors are far richer and more complex, and are often better indicators of the faithfulness and success of a man’s ministry.
4. Success not always visible. A faithful and “successful” ministry may not present obvious and immediate fruit. Adoniram Judson didn’t see a single convert for seven years. Moreover, initial responses can prove hugely deceptive over time (Matt. 13:1-23). And how much “fruit” did the prophet Jeremiah get to see?
5. But visible fruit should be considered. God gives different gifts to different people. It is entirely possible for a man to labor faithfully at something he’s not gifted to do. In such a case, there will be little visible fruit, which should be considered in assessing his long-term plans and support. Not all Christians should ask the church to set aside a portion of their incomes to support them for full-time ministry. Visible fruit is a part of that consideration.
6. What’s the bottom line? Success in ministry primarily means faithfulness, but attempting to humbly and cautiously evaluate the fruit of a man’s ministry should play a supporting role in weighing success in ministry.