EIGHTEEN: What Is Success?

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

Many church plants fail.
There are many reason’s why…maybe because they never gathered enough people or collected enough money. Perhaps because they didn’t start with a clear vision or the leadership didn’t have a real calling to plant something new.

Now in some ways OKC Community has already broken trend.
We have more people coming in year one than many church plants will ever have. We aren’t a large church by many standards, but we do acknowledge that we’ve grown at an abnormal rate compared to national averages.  Now, stay with me…I’m not boasting here.

Early on in our process of planting a regional church planting director told me that we’d be successful if we had fifty people by the end of year two. So, this begs the question—are we already successful?


Hmmm…is success that easy? Are successful churches all about warm bodies?
Can you see the battle that takes place?
Is the size of the crowd the mark of success?
What if twenty people showed up—would it be a failure?

Churches have long measured a few bottom lines as the mark of success and I get it…Everyone needs to survive and everyone hopes to have influence in his or her community and often that comes with strength in numbers. But the question we have to ask is…who are we trying to look successful to? To others? To the watching world of Facebook, or to all the imaginary people we think are watching us?

The battle for me, and I’m guessing it will be for all us is to stay committed to the purity of what this about.

Let’s be reminded that it didn’t initially seem that Jesus knocked it out of the park when it was all said and done. When Jesus was hanging on the cross only a few faithful followers stood courageously by. Even in the days soon after Jesus’ ascension it says that only 120 followers in Jerusalem came together for their first few gatherings. However, we all know that the success of Jesus coming to earth is not measured in numbers of people who chose to follow during his time on earth, or by who stood by him at the cross. The story of his success is still being written. We are living and breathing examples of his impact and the result of his obedient life.

Now success isn’t a bad word, but the definition of success in the church is what is scattered and often messed up.  Numbers and growth aren’t bad things either – in fact, growth can be a really great thing and our church hopes to experience healthy growth for years to come. However, first and foremost, success for us must be obedience. 

To obey God’s Word.
To obey who and what the Holy Spirit guides us to be and do – that must be success for us.

And then…we trust him with the outcomes that lie ahead.
…we must trust him with the outcomes..
Trusting God with the outcomes is not just about our church…it’s about each of our lives.

This entry is less about the old and tired conversation of debating the inflated illusion of success in numbers within the church -- and instead this is about our stake in the ground to say that true success is rooted in obedience to God. 

How does a church exercise obedience?
There are a couple things to consider with this thought.

1. As people we must collectively grow in our obedience to Christ.
We often say at OKC Community that we are a community of people trying to be the church the best way we know how. This statement is all about a humble hope that we would live and be the people we claim to be. In John 14 Jesus says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command…” We never want our love for God to be in question. This is something every one of us must embody.

2. As a church we must stay true to the right things.
It’s easy for churches to get distracted and begin spending time and resources on consumer oriented ministry, extravagant facilities, and tactics to become more popular. We must stay obedient to the call that God has put on this church to bring life to our city, love our neighbors, live the gospel, and be the church. We must be obedient through the ministries we create, the lessons we teach, the events we have, the parties we throw, and the decisions we make. 

Perhaps many church plants fail because they never define what success should be.
Perhaps they got confused along the way and thought success looked like something else.

We can’t become confused or misguided.
Success is obedience.
Obedience is what will make us successful.