How do you measure the success of a church ministry? What are the factors that point to a thriving biblical ministry? I will argue that ministry success is rooted in the wonderful grace and blessing of God. Without the power of God resting upon a ministry, the greatest of spiritual abilities fall to the ground. Therefore, a leading factor to ministry success is a clear recognition of God’s Sovereign rule in our life. The church is not a product of man but a glorious creation of God. Jesus said: “… I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). God builds both the ministry and His man through the agency of the Holy Spirit’s power. The building of God’s church is not measured by man’s ability but by God’s anointing. Paul said it this way: “Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).
The celebritism that permeates today’s church leaders has corrupted and compromised the church. Many are more concerned about their social media following than following Christ. A disposition of narcissism has created a religious “me-generation” that is self-absorbed with their popularity more than the preeminence of Christ in their life. Gimmicks and games have replaced the gospel message. The Old-Time Religion has been replaced with a Show-Time Religion. And we see the impact—where even Christians do not know right from wrong. The Apostle Paul described this sort of character as: “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof …” (2 Timothy 3:5).
Posing the question again—what factors indicate the success of a biblical church ministry? Before answering, I will argue what “stand-alone factors” do not determine ministry success.
- The Size of the Congregation alone is not a Factor.
It would be disingenuous to claim that the growth of a ministry is not important. A study of the book of Acts reveals God’s desire for expansion of His church. We must note, however, the early church did not grow based on entertainment but on the exposition of doctrinal truth. Luke says: “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). I believe the order of their devotion in the verse is intentional and highlights the priorities of the church. Note the “apostles’ doctrine” was a central feature of fellowship. The growth expanded swiftly due to multiple factors (e.g., biblical preaching, fellowship, prayer, and missional evangelism). The development and growth of the church was, and will forever be, important to God. Nevertheless, a large congregation alone does not unequivocally equal ministry success.
Promotions, ploys, and proselyting people to your ministry is no way to grow a church. The church loses credibility when ministries rely solely on gimmicks and games instead of the gospel to attract a crowd. I argue high attendance alone is not an absolute indicator of spiritual maturity. One writer contends: “The size of your congregation and the percentage of growth, so important to the world and far too often to our peers, is not the measure of success in the eyes of the Father. Integrity. Holiness. Commitment. Faithfulness. These are the qualities dear to the heart of God in the lives of His servants.” A church can grow numerically and never grow spiritually. Incidentally, just because a church has a small membership doesn’t mean it lacks sanctification and maturity. Small churches can be great churches too! No matter what size the ministry is—if the spiritual leadership is faithfully doing the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12), they should never get disenchanted. Spiritual leaders must remember God supplies the increase (I Corinthians 3:7). However, size alone does not determine ministry success.
- Calendar Events alone is not a Factor.
In Luke 19:13, Jesus spoke a parable of a servant whose master instructed him to remain busy working until he returns from his journey. The interpretation is clear—we, too, must remain active for Christ until He returns. While ministry activities that promote outreach to the community and connection with others are great, a loaded calendar alone does not equal ministry success. Many churches are busy—they are just busy doing the wrong things. Churches have lots of programs that are filled with loads of fun but little faith. I’m not trying to be an old stick in the mud that promotes we can never laugh or engage in having fun. I believe Jesus enjoyed laughing with His friends and family. In fact, the Bible teaches laughter is like medicine (Proverbs 17:22), and some of us need a hefty dose! What I am saying is we should not plan activities for the sake of having an event—but plan them to promote fellowship and discipleship opportunities where Christ’s love is emphasized and expressed. Therefore, while we are called to be busy for the Lord, a packed calendar alone is not a factor that determines ministry success.
- A big-budget alone is not a Factor
Again, it would be disingenuous to say financial stability is not an indicator of both spiritual maturity and success. Why? As God’s people spiritually mature in their faith and follow the Lord in obedience, they learn the blessing and value of worshipping God with tithes and offerings. However, financial stability alone is not an indicator of ministry success.
The Lord called the Apostle John to write to the seven churches in Asia Minor. One of the seven was the church in Laodicea. It was an educated and wealthy city that boasted about its medicine manufacturing. However, to this rich, wealthy, prosperous church, God said: “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). Yikes! Wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—what a terrible assessment of the church. Their finances didn’t help their faith! They were rich but not rich in faith. The Laodicean church serves as a good example that a big-budget alone is not a factor that determines ministry success.
Let’s answer the question—what is the determining factor to ministry success? One answer totally wraps up the discussion—GOD! That’s right! God is the sole factor, the main ingredient, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last! He cannot just have a position of prominence—He must be preeminent in your ministry. When He is preeminent in your life, you become contenders of the faith and not pretenders of the faith. Pretenders of the faith are those who mask the ministry with crowds, events, and big budgets. However, contenders of the faith are robed in His righteousness, filled with His Spirit, and humbled through prayer.
In closing, here is a verse you must take to heart as you work your ministry—"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
Missional Until He Comes,
Dr. David L. Sampson
 John Bisagno and Rick Warren, Pastor’s Handbook (Nashville: B&H, 2011). Cp. 29