It seems the mentality of the world is to measure success on numbers: number of people that participate, amount in bank account, how many likes on Facebook, retweets on Twitter, and the list goes on and on. While it is true that you could probably measure your success in business or wealth on the number of dollars in your bank account, you simply cannot measure your success in the ministry based on numbers.
Early in my ministry, it was my belief that if the Church house was full that I was being successful as a preacher. I had this idea implanted in my head from the world's way of thinking and also from other pastors and preachers. I would cringe each and every time some preacher would ask me "how many ya'll running down there?" Also when gathering together with other preachers, there was always a division - the ones running a big crowd and the ones running a little crowd. I mean, after all, doesn't a large crowd of people attending an event make it successful?
I would get on social media and see fellow ministers brag and boast about their "packed-out house," and "overflowing parking lot," and make bold statements such as "Wow, had to put extra chairs out, God was really in the House!" Meanwhile I would look out upon the congregation of the Church that God called me to pastor and see empty spots in the pews. This really bothered me and I took it very personal, feeling that I was a failure in the ministry. I would go home defeated and depressed, thinking I should probably just give up.
One day while in this state of depression, contemplating giving up the Church and walking away from the ministry, the Lord directed me to this passage of Scripture: Matthew 27:22-23: 22 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. 23 And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.
I couldn't help but notice the Bible says "they all," meaning the great multitude of people, the "crowd." I then thought back to the Lord's triumphal entry into Jerusalem just days before this event happened when the crowds were all rejoicing and praising him. Then it was like a light switch flipped in my mind and I realized that crowds have nothing to do with success in the ministry. Though great multitudes thronged the Saviour while he was ministering, healing the sick, and raising the dead, when it came right down to it he had very few true followers.
If you were to measure success by the world's standards, the Lord Jesus was a colossal failure. But we know, in fact, that He was and is the most successful being to ever exist. So, why do we measure our success in the ministry on the world's way of thinking? What does the Bible say concerning this? It is very simple. God shows us in His Word: Ephesians 4:11-13: 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
I thank God that He showed me that He doesn't measure true success on crowds or on "how many ya'll running?" but rather he measures it on how closely we resemble His Son Jesus.
Let me encourage you, if you are a small Church pastor with only a few congregants in the pews, don't get discouraged. Keep your eye on Jesus, or as the Apostle Paul puts it: "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." ~Philippians 3:14