Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Success in ministry Page 1 of 2

How do we define success as missionaries?

A question that we discuss at length during every Member Orientation is “How do you define success for yourself as a missionary?” As disciples of Christ, who have been called and sent out to make disciples of others, we can only consider ourselves successful if we believe that we have accomplished what our Master told us to do. Hearing the words “Well done, good and faithful servant” is our greatest hope and ultimate definition of success.   How should we live and serve today, so that we can be assured that we will hear those words when we stand before the Master and give account to Him?

My first extended time of reflection about this question happened about 5 years ago. Our International Director stood with me in a cafeteria line at a LeaderLink training in Florida, and asked me how I would define success for SEND in Far East Russia. I had no answer for him. I had never been asked that question before. But that question would not let go of me. I returned to Russia, where I was leading our work in the Far East, and began to think deeply about this question.   Providentially, in my personal devotions, I was going through the book of 2 Corinthians, and I was struck by Paul’s amazing confidence in God’s approval on his ministry.

Do we really need to demonstrate our credibility?

Part 2 of a series on defining success for a missionary. Part 1 demonstrated that we, like Paul, can be confident in our ministry, despite all our detractors and critics.   We can be assured that God is pleased with our ministry.

The Apostle Paul had a problem. His authority and credibility in the Corinthian church had been severely attacked and critics were dismissing the value of his ministry. He had been accused of deceiving people (2 Cor 4:2), of exploiting them (2 Cor 7:2), of being an impostor (2 Cor 6:8). Unless he could reestablish his credibility in this church, his ministry there was finished. More seriously, as this church turned their back on Paul, they were also turning their back on the Gospel that Paul had preached. The integrity of the church depended on Paul proving that he was in fact a faithful apostle, approved by God, or in other words, a successful missionary.

A clear proclamation of the Gospel

Part 3 of a series on defining success for a missionary. Part 1 demonstrated that we, like Paul, can be confident in our ministry, despite all our detractors and critics. In Part 2, we talked about Paul’s need to once more prove his credibility as an apostle to the Corinthian church. By repeating the phrase “commend ourselves,” he points to some key criteria that he uses to demonstrate that God is pleased with his ministry.

The first criterion that I want to highlight is found in 2 Corinthians 4:1-2.

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

The resume is staring you in the face

Part 4 of a series on defining success for a missionary.  Part 1 demonstrated that we, like Paul, can be confident in our ministry, despite all our detractors and critics. In Part 2, we saw in 2 Corinthians that Paul repeats the phrase “commend ourselves,” to identify key criteria that he uses to demonstrate that his ministry is credible and successful.  In Part 3, we explored Paul’s first criterion of successful ministry, that of clearly proclaiming the Gospel.

The church’s existence is proof that I am successful

Besides reminding the Corinthians that he clearly and even simply proclaimed the Gospel, Paul argues that the very presence of a Corinthian church was ample evidence that he was, in fact, a successful apostle and missionary.

Joyful acceptance of hardships

Part 5 of a series on defining success for a missionary. Part 1 demonstrated that we, like Paul, can be confident in our ministry, despite all our detractors and critics. In Part 2, we saw in 2 Corinthians that Paul repeats the phrase “commend ourselves,” to identify key criteria that he uses to demonstrate that his ministry is credible and successful. In Part 3, we explored Paul’s first criterion of successful ministry, that of clearly proclaiming the Gospel. In Part 4, we looked at the second criterion, that of seeing lives changed by God’s power through our ministry.

As I said in my last post, Paul thought he didn’t need to commend himself to the Corinthians. They knew full well what had been accomplished through his preaching in their lives and in their church. His ministry was credible in every way; in fact, it could be considered glorious (2 Cor 3:7-11)

Equipping the Corinthians to defend their apostle

Top 10 inadequate definitions of success

The sixth post in a series on defining success for a missionary. Part 1 demonstrated that we, like Paul, can be confident in our ministry, despite all our detractors and critics. In Part 2, we saw in 2 Corinthians that Paul repeats the phrase “commend ourselves,” to identify key criteria that he uses to demonstrate that his ministry is credible and successful. In the third, fourth and fifth posts, we looked more closely at Paul’s criteria of successful ministry, that of clearly proclaiming the Gospel, seeing lives changed by God’s power through our ministry, and joyfully enduring hardships in ministry.

Who gets to hear “Well done”? We all want Christ to say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” when we stand before him. But few of us spend much time thinking deeply about what “well done” actually means for us as missionaries. What do we need to be doing in order to receive Christ’s commendation? Some might protest that the question about “doing” clashes with the concept of grace. But Paul says in 2 Cor 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” There will be a judgment of works for believers, and according to 1 Cor 3:12-15, the quality of our participation (or lack of participation) in the building of Christ’s church is definitely subject to this judgment. So if we don’t take the time to think what Christ might be expecting of us, how else do we determine whether we are a “good missionary”? What are some of the definitions of success that we live by?  Maybe recognizing some of these inadequate definitions will be just as helpful as studying the Pauline definitions of his success as a missionary.

Top 10 definitions of missionary success revisited

The seventh post in a series on defining success for a missionary. Part 1 demonstrated that we, like Paul, can be confident in our ministry, despite all our detractors and critics. In Part 2, we saw in 2 Corinthians that Paul repeats the phrase “commend ourselves,” to identify key criteria that he uses to demonstrate that his ministry is credible and successful. In the third, fourth and fifth posts, we looked more closely at Paul’s criteria of successful ministry, that of clearly proclaiming the Gospel, seeing lives changed by God’s power through our ministry, and joyfully enduring hardships in ministry.  In the sixth post, we looked at some typical, yet flawed definition of success.

Last week, I suggested that we as missionaries are pretty adept at coming up with ways of determining whether we have been “good missionaries.”   I gave my top 10, many of them coming from my own experience.   Any one want to add to this list?   No need to stop at ten!

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