26 May, 2010

How Do We Define Success?

I was just reading a story on Fox Sports website about how the man on the right, Jamie Moyer is about to take ownership of a record that no one would really want.
The record?
He will be known as the pitcher who gave up the most home runs during his career. At this moment, he has given up 501 home runs, just 4 shy of the all time record. Sounds like a dubious record that smacks of failure, doesn't it? But is that really what this says of Jamie Moyer? I don't think so. To me, it points to a marvelously successful career of this man. Consider what that record indicates. This man has been good enough that despite giving up more than 500 home runs in his career, the Phillies are still willing to keep him around, and in fact pay him 6.5 million of dollars to pitch for them! Consider that at the age of 47 he is still playing the game and winning games. Pretty amazing to me. And consider this: The man who currently holds the record, Robin Roberts was considered one of the best in baseball in his era and is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, as are the men who hold the number 3, 4 and 5 spots... Ferguson Jenkins, Phil Neikro and Don Sutton. Mr. Moyer is in good company, if I do say so myself!

As I was reading the article and thinking about the company he keeps, I recognized this fact, all 5 of these men all had long careers, all of them pitching into their 40's. Only one of them (Moyer) has pitched on teams that would be considered "great" teams. While each of them may have had one or two years where they really seemed to excel, the fact is, that for most of their careers, they were not "superstars" but rather were steady and consistent over the long haul.

That last fact really jumps out at me and got me to thinking about how we define success. Sadly, more times than not, we define success by what "wows" us... often times a flash in the pan. I've been a huge baseball fan since I was a small child, and I've seen some guys burst on the scene and take the attention of the baseball world by storm, only to just as quickly fade away. Guys like Mark "The Bird" Fidrych who burst on the scene in 1976, winning rookie of the year while pitching for the Detroit Tigers and winning 19 games, despite not even pitching an entire season. He was dubbed "great", "superstar" and so on, but when he retired just 4 years later he had only won 10 more major league games in his career. Bud Smith burst onto the scene midway through the 2001 season as a Saint Louis Cardinal going on to win 6 games with one of those games being a no-hitter. He was labeled the next superstar and was a key component in a huge trade between the Cardinals and the Phillies. But Smith won only one more game in his career before quitting the game. I could go on and on with such examples. But the point I'm making is that success should not be judged on a moment, or a season, but rather, by looking at the long haul. Would you rather have a spectacular game or season, or a steady career where you've been consistent for 2 decades? I'll take the later.

Now, I've said all this to bring us face to face with a glaring problem that we have in the Body of Christ. We are quick to elevate people to "superstar" status because they can preach a great revival, or they start a church that explodes with growth and so on. I've been around long enough that I've seen it way too many times. And so many times, (not always, but many) I've seen that person's ministry blow up. Men and women are flashy, successful (by man's standard) and they are thrust in front of the camera, they write books and make the circuit riding the wave. The problem is that way too often, when it all is said and done, we see preachers having affairs, using drugs, homosexual activity, and other scandals surface in their ministry. I've seen guys start churches and in a very short period of time they have that church running 300, 500 or more, only to see that church in bankruptcy 2 or 3 years later. Again, how do we define success? Is it bursting onto the scene to the cheers and applause only to fade away or fall, or is success found in the man or woman who spends a lifetime as pastor in a small town making strong disciples within his church of 30, 50 or 80? I have to say, some of my heroes are men whose names may never be known by the vast majority of people. My father is one of them. He spent years pioneering churches across Missouri and Iowa, and once that church was established he moved on to another town to do the same. Some would call him a failure because he never pastored a large church. I call him my hero. And there are hundreds like him. There are men I know here in Illinois who have spent more than 20 years at the same church, and the churches are not large by any stretch of the imagination, but they have some of the most dedicated, loyal Christians and church members that you will ever meet. They know the Word of God because they've been taught and instructed in the way of righteousness. Again, I cannot speak for anyone else, but I would call these men a success long before I'd call a "superstar" on TBN a success. Money and fame does not equate necessarily equate to success, nor does it exclude success. My point is don't get caught up in the hype and hoopla of a moment or a move... keep your eye on the big picture. Success to me is not a flash in the pan or a big event... it is the steady, consistent walk that matters.


David Smith said...

Very powerful! My dad lived to be 41, and was much like your father as you described him here. Having dealt with some of my own physical challenges recently, turning 40 years old and watching my oldest daughter graduate high school this week, I have thought a lot about things like success and legacy lately.

Your words spoke to my heart. May God bless you richly for sharing your heart!

David Smith

Randy said...

Thank you Darrell, I needed this today. Just yesterday I remembered a man a few years younger than me who had briefly been our A/G Youth & CE director in Indiana about 20 years ago. I wondered what had become of him, so I messaged the current CE director on Facebook. He told me this young man had planted a church near Atlanta several years ago and it was now running 1500. I was happy for him, because I knew some of the struggles he had to endure in Indiana, but I also wanted to cry because I felt like I hadn't achieved anything in 30 years of ministry in comparison to him. Your post today helps me keep things in perspective.

Darrell said...

Randy, I think most of us go there from time to time in our minds. I sure don't have it all together, but I try to keep this in mind: I am where the Lord has planted me, doing what I am supposed to do. Whether that is with 30 or 300, it is the same calling. The Word tells us that it is the Lord that gives the increase, which means our responsibility is to keep on being faithful where we are planted and not to let our vision get distracted on what God is doing elsewhere. I always TRY to keep in mind the Words of Jesus to Peter when he asked him about John, "What is that to thee?" Bloom where you are planted my friend.