Monday, December 15, 2008

Definition of Success

Walt Kaalstad was a very successful pastor in the realm of Evangelicalism at Community Church of Joy when he had a heart attack. Before the heart attack, he had a mega-church with great worship, great preaching and big numbers of people. Life was great, or so he thought, until God slowed him down enough to re-evaluate what "success" truly is.

During his recovery, he realized that even though large numbers of people showed up enthusiastically each Sunday morning, little was being transformed in their lives and in their community.

Jesus showed him that his definition of success is "one changed life and empowered disciple at a time."

That changes things doesn't it? In Jesus' economy, one life transformed into a faithful Jesus follower is worth a sanctuary filled with 10,000 people. That does turn things upside down, doesn't it?

When Walt came back to work, he shared his thoughts with his board. Thankfully, they came along. The next thing they did was to let go of all their professional musicians and replace them with unpaid worship leaders. These worship leaders may not have been the best musically but they were connected to the heavenlies enough to help others experience God's presence.

Immediately, approximately 20-25% of the congregation left the church. Some Sunday mornings Walt would look out on the empty seats and began to count them, and he would hear Jesus say to him, "You are dishonoring me right now. Worship me. Enter into my presence. It's about me, not attendance figures."

The church began to move out. They began to create communities that mattered in their city. One group started the Taco Church: they would meet in a local taco stand and invite their neighbors to join them as they met for worship, Bible Study and prayer. These ideas began to multiply and move out in rapid waves.

Walt learned that successful leadership for this time and place means that "We must die as a church and be reborn as a mission."

Another story of how God is moving his church to new ways for such a time as this. I can't wait to look around in a few years and see all that he is doing.


waynepark said...

precisely the question I've been asking. It's tough to wrestle with the question of true success and at the same time deal with the hard realities of church planting.

Tamara Buchan said...

I totally agree; it's hard to be patient and realize that seeds that get planted and actually take root will do a lot more than amassing large numbers that attend a service.
I've defined success as "faithfulness to Jesus" it helps keep me from owning that which is really God's.