“It must have seemed like an unprecedented success. Limitless Spanish gold!”
Fifteenth century Spain was a thriving empire. What they discovered in the New World was an almost limitless supply of gold, there for the taking! It must have seemed like an unprecedented success. Limitless Spanish gold!
However, this huge influx of gold, combined with other factors, set a spiral of inflation into motion that ultimately crashed the Spanish economy. In the end, this “success” destroyed their empire.
Here’s the point; true success isn’t as easy to define as one may think. This is particularly true in spiritual matters, both for the individual, and the group.
The New Testament puts forth only model for spiritual community; the church. We certainly have a lot of them, but are they “successful”? How do we even determine success?
I guess I’m thinking about this because a few Sundays ago we had a rededication of our old (historic) sanctuary. It’s beautifully restored! People contributed in many ways, from laying carpet to recreating a traditional gospel service. That Sunday, the attendance was nearly standing room only. It was certainly successful as an event, but was it successful as a church?
Few church leaders would say it this way, but in essence, “If the giving is good and the seats are filled, then we must be doing it right.” -And the more seats and dollars, the more “spiritually successful” a church must be!
We all claim to faithfully follow Scripture, and therein lies the problem. Scripture never mentions financial status as an indicator of success. As a matter of fact, when it does mention wealth, it’s more to this effect:
“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me [God]…” Rev. 3:17, 18
It’s not that God loves poverty, He just has a problem with the love of money. As Jesus said Himself, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matt. 19:23
Well, if financial status isn’t an indicator of “success”, perhaps, the number of people is a better indicator. It is true that the book of Acts mentions the great number who responded to Peter’s first sermon. However, the numbers weren’t the indicator of success, the real indicators come later in the story. Here are the key phrases that reveal God’s idea of spiritual success. They speak to something very different:
They devoted themselves to the teaching… fellowship… prayers… awe came upon every soul… wonders and signs… all who believed were together… distributing… as any had need. Day by day attending temple together… in their homes…. Glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all people… the Lord added… those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
Granted, it’s much harder to evaluate, but real success lies in quality, not quantity. God’s idea of success isn’t high numbers, but deep transformation. -Despite the numbers.
Here’s a recent illustration of this thinking: One of America’s largest mega-churches surveyed its regular Sunday attendees. The goal was to gauge the impact of their faith on their day-to-day lives. They concluded the impact of those who attending only Sunday service was virtually zero!
Here is how the Bible defines success:
- The person isn’t merely believing, but following Christ. (“Disciple” means; one who follows.)
- The Christ-follower isn’t conformed to the world, but transformed to the mind of Christ.
- The Christ-follower is in Christ to the point they are like Christ.
- They are hungry for righteousness (as well as truth).
- They are given to love, joy, and peace, and not to fits of temper, division, or dark pleasure.
- They seek God with all their mind, heart, and will. And they love God in the same way.
Numbers in the pews are encouraging. May God grow His churches, big and small. Financial stability is great too! Thank God for those who give selflessly. But let’s not confuse blessing with spiritual success. In a sentence: Spiritual success is becoming like Christ; as individuals, and as community.
Speaking personally; my great desire is not to have everyone in Heritage Lake come to Canaan. Everyone is certainly welcome, but honestly, I’m only interested in those hungry for true success. The reason is simple: Everything else is just “Spanish gold.” ~Anyway, it’s certainly food for thought.