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Why You Should Stop Trying to be Successful

Why You Shouldn't Try to Be Successful

There’s something in all of us that wants to be successful.

You have it in you. I definitely have it in me. It’s almost universal.

Think about it: very few parents encourage their kids to be unsuccessful.

Success (however you define it) is almost a universal pursuit.

In the instant-results, instant-measurement, instant-assessment culture we live in, we can measure ‘success’ or the lack of it in real time.

Did this week’s attendance beat last week’s?

How much revenue growth are we seeing this month?

Is your follower count rocketing north?

How many campuses are you planting in the next two years?

Where are your downloads at right now?

How many parents showed up at your event?

So how many kids are in small groups?

Don’t get me wrong. Only a fool doesn’t look at those numbers. To have leadership responsibility and ignore the metrics (both hard and soft metrics) is irresponsible.

But…and here’s the big but…sometimes

We stop chasing the mission and we start chasing success.

And that’s almost always a mistake.

If you talk to most people who have become extremely successful, very few of them made success their mission.

In fact, some of the most successful people I know had no idea their ministry or organization would grow to the size it did. They even laugh out loud with a convicting sincerity when they say they had no idea that things would become as successful as they did.

Most of them never chased success.

They just chased the mission.

Almost always, success is a byproduct of a passionately pursued mission.

Sometimes you see a leader who is chasing success, and it’s kind of, well obvious. And if you’re like me, you think “I don’t want to follow that guy”.

The reason is simple – the cause is no bigger than themselves. And who wants to follow a selfish leader?

The leaders truly worth following (at least in the church, and often in the marketplace too)  are those who have made their lives about something bigger than themselves.

And, coincidentally, in many cases, their commitment to the mission produces growth.

When you chase growth for growth’s sake and chase success for the sake of success, your leadership loses integrity.

So what do you do?

Check attendance as a sign of organization health and as an indicator of the scope of life change

Track finances but realize all of it belongs to God, and you’re a steward and you’re accountable.

Remember your followers are people God loves. They are relationships to be cherished and people to be loved and served.

If your church is growing, every service, every campus and every bit of momentum is a series of lives that God is graciously changing under your leadership.

If people are listening, help them as best you can.

Give thanks for the families you’re reaching and serve them with a towel over your arm.

If you’ve got a growing number of kids, be incredibly aware that you have the privilege of impacting the next generation.

What would the church look like if we just decided to stop chasing success and started chasing the mission?

Ironically, you might become more successful than ever.

By the way, to answer those questions that are already forming in your mind, my next post will be about what happens when you’re faithful and you don’t see “success” in terms of growth.

But in the meantime, what are you learning about leaders who are trying to be successful?

What are you learning in your own life on this issue?

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  • Jen Donnelly

    Thank you for this, Carey.

  • cnieuwhof

    I completely agree the most ‘successful churches’ mostly just chased the mission. The success was a surprising by-product.

  • Carey, many of us have assumed that “successful” churches have chased the numbers. Don’t you hit what you aim for? Yet the more I am around the leaders of those ministries, the more I see that they are truly mission-driven people. Getting your eyes off the dashboard indicators and onto the field is a critical shift.