Redefining Success

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September is here.  

And with its arrival is the “ministry new year,” if you will.

Fall always seems to be the best time for youth ministry (unless you are very much unprepared).  There will be new teenagers moving up, new activities & plans & ideas you’ll have for your youth group & typically a renewed zeal that energizes us for youth ministry.

But as quickly as September comes, it goes.  And sometimes with it, that renewed zeal.

And although I’m all good with being passionate or zealous for Christ and His kingdom, passion is not enough if it’s not balanced with patience.

I know, I know…I don’t like being patient either.  I hate it when there is something wrong with my high speed internet.  I hate waiting in line for my coffee.  I hate waiting around for parents who were supposed to pick up their teenager a half hour ago…don’t get me started.

But patience is the process through which God builds our lives and His church…including our youth ministries.

Sure, have faith that God is going to do awesome things this year like transform teens lives, break the power of addiction, speak direction & bring the lost to His heart.  Be passionate about these teenagers’ lives, encourage them and build them up, speak life & the promises of God over them.  But remember to let your roots go down deep and wide, which takes patience.

A tree without a healthy root system is not going to stand very long.  A tree without a healthy root system is not going to have good fruit.  A tree without a healthy root system will not bear much fruit.

If I could redefine success right now not only for my life, but also for ministry, it would simply be to abide in Christ.

You want your youth ministry to be spiritually healthy, then you need to be spiritually healthy.

You want your youth ministry to be effective & fruitful, then you have to effectively abide in the Vine.

John 15:4-5 | Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

Apart from Christ, all of our attempts, all of our dreams, all of our hopes, all of our systems, all of our education, all of our programs can do nothing.

God can certainly use all of these things and they are good things.  But His heart is for you first.

Too often we as followers of Jesus Christ can use passion as a substitute like caffeine when we aren’t getting enough rest.  We get passionate about something, but eventually it wears off and we drink more coffee until we finally realize we are drained because passion isn’t enough and it is not what brings fruitfulness.  Unfortunately, many times we are disconnected from the Vine in different seasons of our lives because we are not allowing our internal world to be a place where His words will expand, grow & blossom.

Success in our lives according to Jesus’ words in John 15 is when a person allows Christ to grow him/her on the inside first before He grows him/her on the outside.  Jesus patiently works in our hearts when we allow His words to thrive inside of us so that what is on the outside will be supported with good and healthy roots.

So even though you have already prayerfully planned how to take over your part of the world for Jesus, prayerfully plan for your spiritual health too.  Set aside time to get out and walk with Jesus.  Don’t let your prayer closet turn into a prayer attic where you go only once in a while.  Spend time in God’s Word daily.  It’s our abiding in Him that will produce fruit in our lives that will glorify Him!

And I love what Banning Liebscher, the founder and pastor of Jesus Culture says: “Fruit means that when people taste your life, you taste like Jesus.”

And I think that is what true success is!

Craig Campbell is the Lead Pastor of Faith Tabernacle Church, which is located in his hometown of Lockport, NY.  He has been serving the local church for more than eleven years in different capacities such as youth ministry, worship ministry, young adult ministry, and more. He and his wife Jennie have four amazing kids whose names are Leland, Hudson, Adalyn, and Lillian.