Yesterday morning, a bunch of us passed along this note on Twitter: 'Over 80% of church plants in the US fail but churches in the Acts 29 church planting network have a 95% success rate.' That news is both exciting and humbling for those of us in A29 who are well aware that we're not that smart and we're not particularly more gifted than some of the guys who have crashed and burned in planting.
A few minutes after I tossed out that information, I had someone I respect push back a little, wondering if our definition of success lines up with how Jesus defines success, pointing me to John 4:35-38. If you read that text and listen to the stories of people whose church plants have shut down, it's hard to ignore the work of God in proverbially making lemonade out of lemons.
So how do we define success?
Seth Godin talks about a hierarchy of success and the critical importance of attitude:
- Why are you doing this at all?
- What's your bias in dealing with people and problems?
- How do you deal with failure?
- When will you quit?
- How do you treat competitors?
- What personality are you looking for in the people you hire?
- What's it like to work for you? Why? Is that a deliberate choice?
- What sort of decisions do you make when no one is looking?
Over at the Desiring God blog, Mike Thate reminds us that:
there is an outright war over who gets to define “success.” There is some irony in this story in that my flight originated in Manhattan, a monument to success. But what is success? And who gets to define it? While success benchmarks are of course both entirely natural and often helpful—e.g. a manager’s use of statistical evaluation to determine a batting lineup or pitching rotation or a trader’s measuring financial turn on investment to evaluate market share—they should also be held in suspicion. Who is defining it? Once success is defined, desired outcomes and lifestyles are set for many. In this sense, they can become totalizing and subsuming.
And finally, Skye Jethani reminds us that our success - our legitimacy - is found in what Jesus has done for us.