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Gauging Faithfulness in Ministry: Pursuing Mastery Not Success

Faithfulness is the proper way to define success in ministry.

But how do you gauge faithfulness?

If we are not careful, improper matrixes can infiltrate our thoughts and effect our work. Left unchecked, these faulty standards invite unfair comparisons that can have a debilitating effect on evangelism activity.

Gaining an Audience

In the creative industry, where success is based on the successful transmission of thoughts, ideas, and performance, it’s imperative to gain an audience.

The standards of metrics that people often use to quantify progress in the creative industry are based on attention. Success is based on followers, pageviews, and subscribers. Judging the quality of work is not based on what a person produces, but on how the work is received. It becomes a status game because everyone can be compared to a standardized number. If the number of views or followers are indicators of quality, then that can filter a person’s willingness to give somebody their attention over others.

This matrix relies on the choices made by others.

Playing the status game is based on comparison rather than quality of work. When this metric becomes a primary source of gauging success, the quality and the consistently of our work will suffer.

Gospel ministries can be a part of the creative industry.

Ministry work is meant to draw in people to hear the Word. The ability to communicate draws attention. Since creative work (preparation of sermons, lessons, devotions, etc.) relies upon the choices of others to listen, read, or watch in person or online, this can impact the mind of those who create the material.

When a matrix for faithfulness is influenced by numbers, then we are setting ourselves up for failure. Numbers play a role for evaluation purposes but are shallow standards for success.

What are they doing right that I’m not?

How often do you compare yourselves to others?  How often do you look at a growing church down the street and the number of programs that they offer? How often do you read about new outreach ideas from churches with blossoming membership, then look at your own sagging numbers and start to despair? Have you asked yourself, “What are they doing right that I’m not?”

Are these questions and conclusions based on numbers or a result of checking out the consistent quality of their work?

When there are standardized metrics to determine a person’s position among others, then this boils up emotions like envy and rivalry. It’s easy to get sucked into the status game.

There is an antidote for those of us who work in the creative industry.

Mastery.

“Mastery is the quest to improve yourself as an end in itself. Comparisons are not made with other people, but only with prior versions of yourself.”

Lawrence Yeo

Status vs. Mastery

Status is obtained by the validation of others. Mastery is gauged internally. It’s intuitive. As one becomes a better woodworker over time, their creations get better, more refined, and the process more enjoyable. It becomes a passion – and passion creates faithfulness to the craft.

The matrix of faithfulness is derived by the amount of joy and satisfaction from doing good work and developing the craft of communicating the gospel.

Numbers do play a role. If an author thinks they are an amazing author, but nobody reads their work, they could be called delusional. Numbers can help guide our work. They can be a source of motivation to modify their work without the need for external validation.

In the article, “Pursue Mastery, Not Status” by Lawrence Yeo, he points to intuition as an important asset towards the journey of mastery. It is the ability to discern what is good or not — what has the potential to break new ground without necessarily listening to the crowd. Developing a sense of intuition can come from observing others who have provided a good model. It’s like inviting over a respected woodworker you admire to assist in developing your craft. The motivation is not to become more esteemed or admired but to be better.

There is an interesting paradox in pursing mastery.

It cultivates credibility.

When you stop caring about status or numbers, people tend to find their way to you and the message you have crafted. Pursuing mastery has a gravitating force that helps gain an audience.

The biblical mandate of faithfulness is front and center in the minds of those who are called to serve in the public ministry. The inspiration and motivation to serve ought to be solely based on thanksgiving for what Christ has done for us on the cross. But our sinful nature often clouds our view and affects our inspiration.

Here is a test to see if you are being influenced to use the wrong matrix to gauge success:

  1. If envy is a recurring problem for you, that means you are consistently using the wrong gauge to track your faithfulness in relation to the advertised position of others.
  2. If you are using a standardized metric to gauge what you need to work on next (to improve your numbers), then you are allowing the validation of others to dictate your mastery.
  3. If you based the quality of your work on its performance – and not how you felt while creating the content – then you will struggle to be confident in your own judgement and discernment.

Next Steps

Stop playing the status game and utilizing standardized metrics to gauge your contribution.

Discard the desire to emulate what seems to be working for others.
Instead, be moved by your own unique experiences, talent, and curiosity.
And remember, gospel ministry is all about the content and not our selves.

Are you prepared
to proclaim?

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