There is a myth of church success in America that says, "The bigger the building, the bigger the budget, the bigger the attendance, the more successful you are."
In the sight of man, this might equal success, but in the sight of God, it might have nothing to do with success. In fact, it might simply be the beautiful facade hiding all kinds of spiritual rot and decay...
All too often, though, outward success has nothing to do with discipleship or spiritual growth, which is why Jesus rebuked the church of Sardis, saying, "You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead" (Rev 3:1).
His rebuke to Laodicea was even sharper: "For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked" (Rev 3:17).
In their case, the outward reflected the opposite of the inward, and the natural wealth only obscured their spiritual poverty.
Yet so many of our American churches and leaders don't get it, as Christian pollster and researcher George Barna has recognized, noting that, "There are five factors that the vast majority of pastors turn to" when asked how they know if their churches are successful.
Those five factors were, "Attendance, giving, number of programs, number of staff and square footage."
What a significant indicator of deep spiritual deception...
Tragically, many American (and international) leaders think that success is measured by these outward characteristics (many congregants feel the same way), yet none of them necessarily reflect maturity in Jesus, soundness in the Word, Christlike conduct, intimacy with the Lord, solid family life, compassionate outreach, or the presence of the Spirit. In fact, none of them reflect a single goal expressed by Jesus and the apostles.
When did Jesus or Paul or Peter or John ever say, "You can measure the success of your mission by how many people attend your meetings, or by how much they give, or by the size of the buildings you build?"...
This, then, is the big question we must ask ourselves, especially as leaders: What has Jesus called us to build?