Success is what most people strive for. Products on TV infommercials promise instant success in everything from weight loss to financial freedom. Schools promise success in producing well-educated students who will succeed in college and the working world. In fact, there is a promise that if you are successful in work, business, education, sports or the arts, you will have lived a successful life. I want some of that! Sign me up!

This idea of success sadly has infiltrated the church in almost all aspects. A successful church is often measured by the number of members, by Sunday morning attendees, by the number of staff members, or by the number of people who prayed at the altar on a given Sunday. I would like to offer the idea that the church is not called to be “successful” in the way success is measured today. Instead, we are called to be faithful.

Jesus told a parable in Matthew 25:14-30 about three servants who have been given responsibility over differing amounts of money or “talents.” Two of the servants used what they were given by the Master and made some profit; however, one servant, out of fear of the Master, buried his talent in the ground, returning only what he was given when the Master returned. The servants who invested their talents and brought a greater return were described as “good and faithful,” while the one who hid his talent was described as “wicked and slothful.”

People today would describe the first two as “successful.” Jesus, however, described them as “faithful.” Are the two completely separate? Not necessarily. Faithfulness sometimes brings earthly success, but more importantly, faithfulness brings eternal reward. Does that mean we should not strive to be successful in our ministries? Perhaps the better goal is to strive to be faithful. Jesus calls us to excellence, and to invest whatever we have been given, as a church and personally, for His kingdom. When we are faithful, He can bring about whatever type of success He desires.


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