Norita gave 25+ years of her life to disabled children & adults in Turkey. She wasn’t famous, she didn’t draw huge crowds, sometimes her family barely had enough money to live on. About 2 weeks ago she suddenly passed away. Perhaps many would say that she was not a success. But it didn’t matter. Hundreds of people from all over the world expressed their love and appreciation for her life and ministry and told stories of the huge impact she had on their lives. Norita lived a life of significance and changed the world!
This week I met with a pastor here in the Phoenix area I’ll call Bill. For the past 10+ years Bill has been on staff at two mega-churches. Not only that, he planted a church that quickly grew to 800 people. He was successful—great job, plenty of money, etc. Now that Bill is in his late 40’s, he wonders if the success he has had in ministry is enough. He wanted to know if his life had significance.
I also think of a preacher who held a series of evangelistic meetings. One night he came home and his wife asked how the meetings were. Not great, he replied—only a few people accepted Christ. One of those people was Billy Graham. Perhaps the meetings were not successful—but they were significant.
Finally, I think of an older home-bound lady who lived across from a high school. Everyday she prayed for that school and especially for a small, scrawny young man named George. George became a Christian and later founded Operation Mobilization, one of the largest mission agencies of the last 50 years.
Our American culture loves success stories. We love to hear about people who grew up in poverty and now have large houses, expensive cars, great paying jobs, and social status. These people have arrived! Our culture is a celebrity culture. And, unfortunately, it seems like this “success” and “celebrity” culture has become part of our Christian community.
We love big numbers, large churches, Christian celebrities and anything that brings the “WOW Factor”. But it makes me wonder about whether we are missing the boat. Someone once asked me “Do you want to build a big ministry/church, or do you want to change the world”? He was really asking—”Do you want to be successful, or do you want to be significant”?. While these two concepts are not polar opposites, seeking to be successful—looking for the “WOW Factor” can easily move you away from being significant.
Think about the Jesus. He was born in a manger. He started his ministry in relatively remote Galilee—far from Jerusalem. He picked a band of 12 ragtag men to follow him, and after 3 years he died—leaving behind about 500 followers. Does this sound like the way to start a worldwide movement? If we are honest with ourselves, we would say that Jesus was not a success. In fact, when you read the Gospels, he seemed to do things that clearly went against being successful. BUT, nobody can deny His significance. He changed the world like no one else.
How do you become significant? You follow the model of Jesus. You build relationships. You invest in people. You serve. You listen to the Holy Spirit and you don’t care about social status, money or fame. You stay faithful to the calling of the Lord in your life—whether that be something in full-time ministry or as a doctor, nurse, firefighter, teacher, or garbage collector. Everyone of us has the opportunity to live a life of significance and change our world!
Thank you for your continued friendship, prayer and support.
Karl and Debbie