14 February, 2013

How Do We Define Success? (Revised)

I originally posted this on 26 May, 2010, but this morning it came to mind and I revised it with a few additional thoughts.

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 that brought Scott Rolen to the Cardinals. Rolen had been labeled a trouble maker and was hated in Philadelphia. We know how Rolen did in Saint Louis... but what about Bud Smith?  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. Or you have an individual or family who "show up" at a church, and they "explode" on the scene. They want to be involved in everything. They make a great display as to how "spiritual" they are. They are loud and in your face about how great their love for God is... and many people are sucked in by their theatrics. But I've been around long enough that I've seen it way too many times. These new people are almost always a flash in the pan, and if they don't get enough attention and power, they blow on to the next church to bless them with their presence. This is one reason why I seldom allow new people to get involved in any position in the church until they show me that they can submit themselves to leadership. A person who cannot submit themselves to a leader is themselves a pitiful leader. It's the same with these flash in the pan ministries. How many times have we seen these people blow in and 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. In the local church, everyone wants to focus on the new family that blows in. People make over them, celebrate them and inflate their egos... and then are hurt when the flash dies and the true person is seen as they move on to their next show. I choose rather to celebrate the ones who have been with me through thick and thin and remain faithful to God and their church. Others may impress men... but I have a sneaking feeling that God is smiling, not at the latest dog and pony show, or the person who has to be seen and heard, but by those who are faithful, consistent and true to their walk with God and faithful to their church week after week, month after month, year after year.  YOU are the true giants. 

To those at Harvest Church who fit that last category (you know who you are) I celebrate you, and want you to know that God celebrates you too!

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