Worth Reading–April 12, 2012
Matt Chandler writes about the only goal that matters.
“Success” Is a Hollow Goal
By Matt Chandler
I spend a good portion of my week in dialogue with pastors. They are from different denominations and tend to be different ages (although most of them are young). The conversations range from theology to philosophy, from church growth to how to lead a staff. I enjoy them. I love robust discussion over things on those matters. I like it when the unanswerable questions are asked and wrestled over—it somehow feeds my soul.
Lately, though, I have been somewhat disturbed by something I am hearing or maybe sensing in the questions and directions of the conversations in which I find myself.
The Grandiose or the Gospel?
When I exited itinerant (traveling) ministry to become a pastor, I left crowds that were in the thousands and finances that more than provided for my family, to go to a small, 160-person church that cut my annual salary in half.
There wasn’t one person who thought that taking the position at the Village was a “smart” move. In fact, several actually sat me down and told me they thought I was being disobedient and a bad steward of the gifts that God had imparted to me.
The truth is I didn’t become the pastor of a church in the suburbs of Dallas because I had a grand vision for growing a dynamic, life-transforming, church-planting, gospel-preaching, God-centered church. I took the position because after a great deal of conversations, prayers and fasting, my wife and I felt it was the direction God, through the Holy Spirit, was leading us.
All for His Crushing Majesty
I came to the Village because I thought that by doing so I would get to see more of Jesus, experience more of him, sense more of him, see more of me die, more of my flesh perish, the old man in me lose more power, etc. He is the great end that I am after. He is why:
In 1 Timothy 4:10, Paul writes “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”
I love that verse.
“We toil, yes. We strive, yes. But where is our hope?
”What, or rather, who is the goal? I love preaching the gospel and I love planting churches, but I do those things because in them there is this unbearable weight of his presence, this crushing majesty that makes me want to cry, sing, and scream all at the same time.
“Success” Is a Hollow Goal
The thing that disturbs me lately is that it seems we’ve made the goal something else all together. We think the goal is growing our churches to a certain size or our platforms (pulpits, blogs, books) to a certain fame. How hollow is that? And, how dangerous?
“Just because men love Jesus and follow him doesn’t mean that they get to grow a platform or reach a certain level of “success,” a word I use loosely.
”Here are a few men who loved our great God and King and were obedient beyond the norm:
Moses spends his whole life with grumbling whiners and dies without getting to walk into the promised land.
Samson suicide bombs the Philistines, and when the dust settles, he is dead and the Philistines still rule over Israel.
One of David’s sons rapes his sister and another leads a rebellion against him, dethroning him for a season.
Jeremiah ends up in exile with the rest of the country after repeatedly getting beaten for preaching what God commanded him to preach.
John the Baptizer is beheaded by a pervert who gives his head to a 15-year-old stripper.
Peter is killed, reportedly crucified upside down.
Paul is killed in Rome but only after he spends his life (with thorn intact) being beaten, rejected, lost at sea, and consistently dealing with people coming in behind him and destroying what he built.
Our Only Goal Is Christ
If your hope is set on anything other than Jesus, how do you survive when it goes bad? How do you remain passionate and vibrant when no one comes or the baptismal waters are still for long stretches? How do you maintain doctrinal integrity or teach hard things if he isn’t the treasure? How do you worship when your wife gets sick or your son goes for a ride in an ambulance?
If Jesus is the goal, the treasure, the pursuit, then those things are fuel that presses you into his goodness and grace all that much more. I am not saying they are pleasant or enjoyable but only that if he is your goal then you will find your faith sustained.
May God bless you and keep you. May you see that he is the treasure, that he is the pursuit, that he is the goal—and may you press on toward the goal for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.