Can Success Be Dangerous?

Whether it be in the classroom, the business world, the ball field or the mission field, success can be exhilarating. There is satisfaction from knowing that your hard work has paid off, your goals have been met and the outcomes have met (or even exceeded) your expectations. Just ask LeBron James, Mark Zuckerberg or the pastor of a 5,000+ member church.

christ72tissot

Christ Sends Out the Seventy, James Tissot

Consider the 72 people sent by Jesus on a risky mission. Taking nothing but the clothes on their backs, they entered the surrounding communities, ate in the homes of strangers and proclaimed the kingdom of God. They returned and celebrated their success:

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” (Luke 10:17)

Success is exhilarating, but it is also dangerous. Ironically, ministry success threatens our faith. The disciples were tempted to put their joy and confidence in the authority they asserted over the powers of evil, but Jesus revealed a secret that protected them from the threat of success:

“Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)

Ministry success is defined in various ways: Reaching more people, developing more leaders and growing more disciples. These can be good measurement tools for evaluating a church’s faithfulness,  but we cannot let them become the source of our joy in ministry.

Jesus protects our joy from the threat of success by reminding us of our true citizenship, and promising us the great reward of heaven. Nothing can take away this joy…not even success.

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About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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One Response to Can Success Be Dangerous?

  1. Pingback: Can Success Be Dangerous? « HUNTINGTOWN UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

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