Thursday, August 02, 2012

Book Review: The Measure of Our Success

A little while back, this book was going for free on Kindle, and had come highly recommended on my Twitter timeline. Coming to the end of my first year as rector, with holidays approaching, it felt like a good time to reflect on how I was doing. Shawn Lovejoy (no relation to the Reverend in the Simpsons) urges pastors to rethink success in this Impassioned Plea to Pastors.

Early on, he sets out the problem:

'Today I am deeply convinced of one truth: pastors are not doing so well. Most pastors are disillusioned, discouraged, and discontent with the way their lives and ministries are turning out.'

And what is wrong with pastors, for him?

'Here's my basic conclusion: the main reason so many of us are struggling stems from our definition of success. Somewhere along our ministry journey, we got things tangled up in our hearts and heads. Our root problem is that we have exchanged God's definition of success for our own. We have begun to measure success the way the world does.'

Even while we're busy, Lovejoy argues that we could be doing it all wrong:

'as ambitious self-started, we can so easily begin to work for Jesus at the expense of working in and through Jesus. The more talented and driven we are, the easier it becomes for us to rely on our own ambition, talents, power, strength, intellect and wisdom.'

He continues to describe growing churches, top 100 churches and the like, with most pastors wanting to be up there with their name in lights. It's a mistake, because, as he points out: 'Success is being faithful with what we have.' Indeed, anything else is idolatry, as we set our idols up to be a growing church or a large church, rather than being faithful where the Lord has called us.

He presents the three Cs of unhealthy measurement: 'comparing, copying, and condemning' and works through them in a helpful way to expose the constant comparison that goes on with other churches, both locally and internationally.

While this was a helpful reminder as to what success looks like, it's not the book I would recommend to others on the subject. At times I wasn't convinced of the author's use of Scripture, and at other times it was just too American in language, culture, drive, and forwardness. Perhaps it was just his personality coming through and clashing with my more reserved nature, but it grated at times in reading the book.

Perhaps the most memorable chapter was the last, in which he writes a powerful resignation letter - the book may just have been worth it for this. The Measure of Our Success: An Impassioned Plea to Pastors is available on the Kindle.

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