The Measure of Success

Jimi Williams —  May 13, 2010

 As worship leaders, we often ask the question “How do we measure success?”. Sometimes we find that this question is more easily answered by a retail store or a mechanic than by a ministry leader. It can be hard to get your arms around the metrics that should be used to measure success. Is it how many people show up on Sunday morning? Is it how many people have their arms raised in worship or say “good job” when you are done?

Certainly both of these things can point in a general direction of success, but they leave out the possibility that God may be using you to bring about some other good. From the Old Testament, would you say Elijah’s ministry was successful? He was hated by many and spent part of his life hiding from people who wanted him dead. But he was God’s voice to a wayward nation. Successful? Maybe. Obedient? Definitely. So perhaps the better question to ask is “Am I being obedient to the will of God?” This can be a challenge as we’re tempted to meet the approval of our congregation and fellow worship leaders, but God calls us to look past that and follow him.

To unpack this question of obedience, ask yourself the following:
-Am I faithfully doing what God has gifted me to do?
-Am I living my life according to the Bible by loving God, loving others and avoiding sin?
-Am I willing to do the right things, even if they cause me discomfort?
-Would I still be willing to serve God in the same way if no one ever said “thanks” or “good job”?

In the end, I believe God values obedience more than success. So should we.

Jimi Williams

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Jimi is VP of Worship Resources for Capitol CMG Publishing, overseeing all Worship Together initiatives and resources. He also leads worship at his home church and at various events and conferences.

4 responses to The Measure of Success

  1. Thank you for stepping out and stating boldly that obedience is a key measure of successful ministry! We can be tempted to measure success with the world’s yard sticks: compliments, numbers, money. But these are rarely God’s criteria for success. We are all called to exalt His Name, and some of us are called to lead others in that activity…we should heed the call and label it “successful” if He is worshiped in Spirit and in Truth, be it by a handful of faithful on a slow Sunday, or by thousands on national TV. For me, I know a time of worship has been successful when the presence of the Holy Spirit is palpable and people are led unhindered into God’s presence. This usually happens in spite of us rather than because of us, and it has more to do with the condition of our hearts and whether or not we “get out of the way,” than it does with how tight the set was or how skillfully we played/sang. Although He deserves and demands our best, and we should offer it to Him. It is difficult to explain how you can know that the Holy Spirit is present, but fortunately it is also unnecessary. It is wonderfully obvious when it happens! Just as it is painfully obvious when it doesn’t…
    Thanks for the post!

  2. Very interesting article, well worth the read. Worship ministry is the sort of thing that gathers compliments, but the true measure of our success must be far beyond whether people think we are great! When I lead each week, I find I have a sense of whether the Lord has really taken control or not rather than the number of hands raised, and my mission is to lead others closer to the Lord.
    However, worship leader pride can be a huge stumbling block, sometimes even pride in a job well done can affact us. We have to be alert to this, and humble enough to listen to God instead of man.

  3. The first question I ask when working with a young/inexperienced worship leader is “how will you know when the worship ministry is successful?”
    There’s always a bit of a pause–and an answer that usually gets summed up by “when we provide an atmosphere of worship.”
    The big question that has come up in my mind has been this: can your worship ministry be successful if the mission of your church isn’t?
    Ultimately, the worship ministry serves Jesus… it should be evaluated by how well it supports the mission of the church. The worship ministry should flow out of who the church is–and remind people of who Jesus is. If not, it may be nothing more than a good show.
    You’re absolutely right. It can’t be a goal for people to give you an “attaboy”. And when the worship flows from mission, you’re not too concerned about that anyway.
    Thanks for the post :)

  4. Simple blog post, but so much in it… thanks for making me think. :)