“Success is faithfulness.” This is what my co-worker said at a work planning retreat. She was 25 years my senior. And when she said it, I internally rolled my eyes. It seemed like a cop out. Like if we don’t meet our goals, if we don’t see positive results, we can always make ourselves feel better by saying, “well, at least we were faithful.”
We had set aside this off-site, two-day planning retreat to make goals. Goals that would push us, goals that would force us to work together as a team, goals we could be proud of. I like goals. I need to know where I am headed. I like to win! And I was more than a little frustrated that there was someone on the team that might go “soft” on us this year and lead us to something as elusive and unmeasurable as “faithfulness.”
As the planning retreat continued, I would smile politely and nod at her input, while continuing to push the group toward some specific, measurable and tangible goals. The boss, who was leading the experience, was goal oriented like me, so there was a chance that we could push through this “faithfulness” mumbo jumbo and still have a successful year.
But here was the problem. I was not working for a fortune 500 company, I was not working for a start-up business, I was working for a Church. And my co-worker, with 25 years more experience than me, knew something that I didn’t:
Unless the Lord builds the house the builders labor in vain. –Psalm 127:1
My co-worker knew that a talented team of leaders could set some kick-butt goals that were misaligned with God. The more talented the team, the more likely they could crush their goals AND be dangerously off course. As a church leader, it’s not that I didn’t want to be faithful to God, it’s just that I thought I already knew what God wanted. I asked Him once, or maybe twice.
Fortunately, the boss was wiser than me. He wanted to set goals for sure. But he understood that crushing goals was not the ultimate outcome here. Our calling was higher. We would be leaders who would discern the will of God and be faithful to Him. He knew:
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. -Proverbs 16:9
So rather than diving right into reviewing last year’s results, rather than jumping to a good S.W.O.T. (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, we paused, we took a breath, we made space…for God.
The modeling of this leader has served me well in 2020, when I have felt paralyzed in my planning. I am now the one with 25 years of ministry experience, and I am now the one leading my co-workers into the future. And I am forever grateful that my early years in ministry included wise leaders who showed me the way. Because even when I don’t know what to do, what I can always do is seek God’s wisdom and obey. And this year He is not giving me all 10 steps, but just one step at a time. Do the next right thing, and the other steps will reveal themselves.
Here is my current routine to remain faithful to God:
- SILENCE (at least 10 minutes everyday) – asking God what to do and telling him that I am listening and intend to obey what He tells me.
- WORD – Regular reading of God’s word, with a posture of listening.
- EXAMEN – Praying the Daily Examen (I use the Reimagining the Examen App)
In this season of COVID, in this year of 2020, when all plans are out the window and you have to re-adjust everything, know this:
- The only thing that will measure your success this year is your personal faithfulness to God.
- The only thing that will measure your leadership this year is your ability to point others to personal faithfulness to God.
I have repeated my wise co-workers phrase so many times over the years, “success is faithfulness.” My success is to the do the will of my Father. And sometimes that means setting goals and crushing them, but not to please others, not to prove I am worthy, not to be a success, not to win, but to bring glory to God.
Now more than ever, worldly assessments of what success is will not be an effective measure. Your charts will not be up and to the right. What will matter is did you hear from God and obey Him?
You have one job. You have one calling. Hear from God and obey what He says.
So, my friends. As it turns out, it’s true. Success IS faithfulness…to the ways and plans of God. That is my calling. Is it yours?
Restore Community Church, Community Life Pastor