By Neil Cole
Jesus defined success differently. For Him, success could be summed up in three words: Faithfulness (Matt 25:21; Heb 11:6) fruitfulness (John 15:8) and finishing well (Matt 25:21; 2 Tim. 4:6-8).
If these three things are what Jesus is looking for to determine our success then perhaps our priorities should reflect them. Christian leaders put so much emphasis on tasks at the expense of relationships, but actually, it is our relationships that will ultimately reveal our success or lack thereof.
The diagram below reflects a variety of roles that a typical Christian leader can feel obliged to fill. At the top of the chart are the roles and at the bottom are the numbers of people he or she can expect to influence in each of those roles.
As you look at the circles above imagine them on a potter’s wheel spinning fast. The Christian leader feels the pull of centrifugal force to the outer roles. The crowds beckon. The demands of the consumer Christians call to us endlessly.
Leaders who perform well on the outside tasks get the most accolades and affirmations. But the tasks that fuel true success over a lifetime are found at the center of the circles. The greatest demand and the least significance are found in the roles on the outside of the circles. The least demand on your time, yet the greatest significance for your life investment, are found in the center of the target. Aim for the bull’s eye if you want to die without regrets.
We simply must realign our priorities to reflect what is valuable in God’s kingdom. The greatest leaders are not those who win the most followers. The greatest leaders are the ones who produce leaders.
Follow Jesus to True Success
This was Jesus’ pattern; he fulfilled all the roles. He preached to, healed and fed the multitudes (Matt 13:1-34;14:13-21). He cast vision to five hundred at one time (1 Cor 15:6). He shepherded a congregation of disciples that numbered 120 (Acts 1:15). He coached and facilitated the training of 70 (Luke 10:1). He discipled 12 (Matt. 10:1) and of those 12 He invested Himself in 3 to reproduce His leadership (Mark 5:37; Luke 9:28; Mark 14:33). The 3 were part of the 12, who were numbered in the 70. The 70 were counted among the 120 and of course the 120 were part of the multitudes.
Jesus was not enamored by large crowds. Though He obviously had the ability to draw tens of thousands to attend an event, it was not his purpose to gather a large crowd, and that was not success to Him. He frequently tried to get away from large crowds (Luke 5:14-16), and even intentionally offended them without worrying about loosing His popularity (John 6:41-71).
It is the lives you touch, one at a time, which will be the fruit of your life. To focus on the true priority of making disciples we must at times neglect the distracting but less than significant demands that come from the masses.