Redefining success

May 7, 2014 | Viewpoints | Number 10
Garry Janzen |

How do we measure success? When I served as a mission worker in Botswana, an African leader shared with me that their defi-nition of success is “good relationships.” By this he meant that all our economic success, status and all the letters behind our names mean nothing if we have sacrificed relationships in order to achieve these. When I shared this with an indigenous leader here in Canada, he could not have agreed more.

As a missional people, is our focus to be on measuring? Are we to regularly sit down with a measuring stick and assess how far forward we have moved? People committing their lives to following Jesus and connecting with the church does our hearts good. Having the number of people who are participating in our small groups and worship services grow is encouraging. We are thankful for new people getting involved as leaders in our churches or serving in our ministries. Seeing ministry projects be completed gives us a sense of accomplishment. These are all good outcomes of faithful ministry.

I play early-morning drop-in hockey three mornings a week. A guy named Mark has been coming for the last couple of months. In our chats in the dressing room before and after hockey, I have discovered that Mark has connections to the church, but is not involved. I also found out that he is related to the new pastor at Living Hope Christian Fellowship in Surrey.

I invited Mark to the installation service on April 27 for the new pastor and told him I would be giving leadership there. He said he might come. After the service, I was mingling and this woman came up to me to ask if I was the one who plays hockey. She said that her son-in-law, Mark, has really appreciated his relationship with me and the conversations we have had at hockey.

Neither of us had seen Mark at the installation service, but she just wanted to encourage me to continue my witness with her son-in-law at hockey. How do you measure that? God is at work, and when we align ourselves with what he is doing, our witness to his love flows through us to the worlds in which we find ourselves.

If we are actively witnessing to the love of Jesus in our neighbourhoods, yet our churches are declining in numbers in the pews, how will they survive? I certainly haven’t seen the fullness of the answer to this question. Is our ministry about trying to figure out ways to fill our buildings? What God is doing as a result of these relationships is yet to be revealed, so we keep on actively loving our neighbours. How is the activity of our missional God measured? It’s hard to tell, but we get glimpses such as a mother-in-law’s note of appreciation.

If “good relationships” are the definition of success, this kind of success is clearly harder to measure than numbers and completed projects. Yet aligning with what God is doing in our neighbourhoods seems to be what God is asking of us, and it is definitely rewarding (and fun).

Garry Janzen is Mennonite Church B.C.’s executive minister.

--Posted May 7, 2014

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