EIGHTEEN: What Is Success? (Part II)

Posted By: Tim Mannin
ENTRY FIFTEEN in our writing series, EIGHTEEN, which is all about some of in's and out's of this church. 

I’m sure many of you don’t pay attention to the latest on major league baseball, but I’m guessing most of you have heard something about the controversy surrounding steroids and performance enhancing drugs among players. This controversy has been going on for over a decade now and several years ago it even made its way into a U.S. Congressional hearing. The story of athletes cheating by using steroids isn’t new and it happens in nearly every sport, but since the early 2000’s baseball has been under a microscope.  Some of the games biggest names have been implicated as users in this “steroid era” of baseball.

I don’t have any skin in the game on this particular issue—meaning I don’t get particularly passionate one way or another about the cheating that takes place in sport. The part of this story that is comical to watch (because it’s so ridiculous) and the reason I bring it up is the countless examples of listening to the words spoken by these players versus the story being lived by these players.


The words spoken by the vast majority is that they have “never used performance enhancing drugs.” The story being lived indicates otherwise. Many of these players have had a tremendous physical transformation over a few short years of time. Their necks typically quadruple in size, their biceps are the size of watermelons, and their thighs are as thick as oak trees. In addition, to their freakish physical transformation, typically their game transforms as well—equating in unusual increases in home runs, batting average, acne treatments (a common side effect) and other stats.

The true measure of a person’s life is not by what they say, but it’s more about the story that’s being lived. The words we’ve seen many professional athletes try and sell us just don’t match up to the story that we can plainly see being lived by them.

In entry thirteen I made the statement that success for OKC Community Church would be obedience. The success measure of obedience stands on its own and encompasses the big picture of what must matter to our church community at our very core. This understanding and value can never change.  But are there other marks of success for us? Do we carry other measuring sticks in order to let ourselves know that we are developing, growing, and improving? What are other things that indicate if we are having success? 

The absolute best measuring stick that we have and really any church, organization, or person should have is — story. A story represents reality. If we say that we value loving our neighbor…well then we better have stories to prove that we really do love our neighbors. If we say that we are a church for our city…well then we better have stories that show how we are a church for our city.

So many leaders and churches are just about words on a screen or in a sermon. They think…”if we put it on our website it will show everyone that we are super serious about it…if we preach about it then we can assume everyone is actually doing it.” We can all agree this sort of thinking is ridiculous, right? Now, let me say this—words matter a whole heck of a lot. If we don’t speak it and call people to deeper levels of love, faithfulness, and dreams for God’s mission then it won’t happen. It begins with words, however words should turn into a story. If the story ends with words in a sermon, on a piece of paper, or on a screen then the story has much more work to do before we can claim it’s a good story.

So many churches/ people think they care about the poor…because they talk about it, or possibly give some money towards it. Tell me a story about how your church/ you are caring about the poor.

So many churches/ people think they do a pretty good job of loving their neighbor…because they are a nice person (especially to the cash register clerk). Tell me a story of how you learned a neighbor’s name, built a relationship, served them, or had a party with them.

So many churches/ people think they are faithful…because they try and do the right things, such as; go to church, keep a low sin-quota, and read the Bible. All of those are great things, but tell me a story about pushing yourself and your faith to new limits—possibly a story of trusting God with your work, relationships, money, reputation, or future.

Those are just a few examples.

At OKC Community we have many things that we believe and highly value (we’ve shared several of those things in this writing series). If we don’t have stories to back those things up then we are just banking on our words. We cannot be built on a mountain of words that end up creating story that says one thing, but lives another. It’s startling to think about how many churches, organizations, and people are essentially living this way—saying one thing, but living another.

That story is the worst kind of story.
That kind of story is usually full of pride, lies, deception, and selfishness.
We desire to measure ourselves against the story of what we are living. When we notice that there is a vacancy of certain stories (such as, the examples above) that is a red flag, and it indicates where we must make intentional efforts to improve and grow. Stories help us know where the soil is healthy and vibrant and they also let us know where we need too tend, water, and care for the soil. Good stories are ones about bearing fruit, thus the need for good gardening skills.

This is a difficult process for some. It’s not always easy for a person, organization, church, or even a professional athlete to take a look in the mirror and ask, “do we have stories that represent who we say that we are?” Success certainly begins with obedience (as stated in entry thirteen), however success will be expressed through our stories.

Our stories provide the proof – if we are who we say we are.
May we live and be able to tell the good kind of story.