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God defines success in ministry, Willmore tells seminarians
March 20, 2006
By David Roach
Roger Willmore challenged Southern Seminary students to evaluate success in light of the standards of God, not the standards of men. Photo by David Merrifield
Ministers must resist the current trend of measuring success in terms of awards and numbers and instead measure success in terms of faithfulness to Jesus Christ, Roger Willmore, senior pastor of Deerfoot Baptist Church in Trussville, Ala., said in chapel March 7 at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
"Numbers and headlines and awards do not necessarily spell success," said Willmore, who also serves as minister at large for Olford Ministries International and first vice president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention. "Success in ministry can be a reality in any place and under any circumstance. It is God, not man, who defines success in ministry."
To measure success God's way, ministers must examine their work in four contexts, he said.
First, ministers must evaluate their work in the context of our culture. America is no longer a Christian-friendly culture, and in such an environment a minister is successful if he can lead his church to confront the culture with Jesus, Willmore said.
"Christ, not culture, should set your agenda, chart your course and determine your methods," he said. "Success in ministry can be and must be experienced in the culture in which we live."
Second, ministers must also evaluate success in the context of their call, he said.
"God's call is the anchor that holds us, anchors us, steadies us," Willmore said.
If a man feels like he can do anything else other than ministry, God is not calling him into the ministry, Willmore said.
A minister is successful if he demonstrates faithfulness to God's purpose in the place God puts him, he said.
"The only ideal place of service to God is the place where God has set you down," Willmore said, quoting Eric Alexander. "We're always looking for the other side, aren't we?" he added.
A third context in which ministers must measure success is their character, Willmore said. God is more concerned about who we are than what we do, Willmore said.
"Ministry issues out of life," he said. "It is not just what we do. It's who we are. Character matters."
Because the loneliness of ministry can make a minister susceptible to sin, ministers should be aware of their vulnerability, Willmore noted.
"Ministry can be and often is a lonely life," he said. "Loneliness creates vulnerability. Put safeguards around your heart. Guard your character. Guard your integrity. Your ministry depends upon it."
A final area in which ministers should measure success is their communion with God, Willmore said.
"Studying for preaching and teaching is a wonderful thing," he said. "We all enjoy that. But we must have our personal, private, intimate time with [God]. And it is out of that walk that our ministry issues."
Ministers must take seriously the Bible's standards of success and start measuring their success in a completely God-centered way, he concluded.
"I have come today with a great concern about how many in ministry measure success," Willmore said. "It is my prayer today that we would understand that the fundamental characteristic of success in ministry is faithfulness to God.
"It is not the headlines, the spotlights, the numbers, the reports that make the news, the size of your ministry or the place of your ministry. It is faithfulness to God."