Healthy Leaders


The Importance of Defining Success in Kingdom Terms

Scott RodinScott Rodin

This is the fourth of seven blog posts that are excerpted from my book, Steward Leader Meditations. It is my heartfelt prayer that this book of Scriptural texts, meditations, action steps and simple prayers will bless leaders on their journey toward kingdom faithfulness and effectiveness.

Part 1 – Dear Leaders: Sell Everything – Really!
Part 2 – Leaders: What Do You Fear Today?
Part 3 – The Crucial Difference Between Producing and Bearing Fruit
Part 5 – Who Are You?
Part 6 – What it Means to Be a Leader of No Reputation
Part 7 – A World at War – Are You Prepared to Lead?

May you be blessed by these texts, thoughts and prayers.

Then He said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

In my work as a consultant for not-for-profit organizations, I ask one question to start almost every consultation. “How do you measure success?” I have found that this question more than any other helps define an organization’s mission, values, and motivations. The same is true for us as leaders. Each of us carries with us a definition of success for our life and leadership. That definition impacts our attitudes, our actions and every decision we make.

Chuck Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship, had a plaque on his desk for most of the years he ran the ministry. It read, “Not Success but Faithfulness.” It was a daily reminder to him that success in the kingdom of God was radically different than that of the world. In fact, the idea of success itself had to be replaced by a radically new idea, the call to absolute faithfulness for followers of Jesus Christ. The great challenge for us as leaders is that so often faithfulness as a follower of Jesus Christ will result in things that run absolutely counter to the world’s definition of leadership success. Scripture absolutely promises this. It tells us that in the kingdom of God we live by dying, receive by giving, lead by serving, become first by being last, and are exalted through humility.

It is, however, even more radical than that.

Success defined in kingdom terms can be boiled down to this one simple definition: a life lived daily in an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

It is in this intimacy that our hearts are changed and our lives transformed, and faithfulness becomes our driving motivation for all of life.

Without this intimacy we see counterfeit definitions of success as a leader. Our culture screams at us that success has to do with how fast we grow our organization, how much money we can raise or earn, the amount of power we wield, and the reputation we cultivate. These aberrant definitions seep their way into the kingdom of God and deceive leaders who try to weave them into their work. But they are antithetical to the way of the cross.

Are you willing to embrace kingdom values to such an extent that you will measure the success of your leadership solely and completely in terms of your faithfulness as a follower of Jesus that is born from an intimate relationship with God? When Jesus proclaims in John 10, “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly,” He is referring to this life of faithfulness. It is the life of a steward leader. Are you living the abundant life of a steward leader today? It starts with an intimate relationship with God in Jesus Christ and a heart that yearns for faithfulness as the driving force for everything you think, say, and do.

Write your own one-to-two sentence definition for success. Consider the mental picture this definition creates; the image you hold of the ideal place you want to be in life. All of us are striving toward some picture of a life that is beyond the one we are living today. How well does it align with the definition of success as absolute faithfulness as a steward leader? Are you willing to identify those driving forces in your life that do not align with kingdom values? Pray about each one, asking that God would change your heart as you grow deeper in your relationship with Him. Let that become your heart’s desire.

Close your time with this prayer:

Gracious Lord, I confess that I have focused my attention on attaining things in this life that look a lot like the world’s definition of success. It is so easy for me to desire financial security, glowing reputation, popularity, praise, and even power in my leadership role. I admit that in pursuing these things, I have lost my way. I am not experiencing the abundant life You promised me. Take me back into Your presence and help me find true intimacy with You. In Your presence, change my heart, open my eyes, and give me a new vision for my leadership. Instill in me a passion for faithfulness that will overwhelm every other passion in my life. I want to follow You, and You alone, with all my heart. Come, Holy Spirit, and guide me into all truth. I give myself back to You for this purpose in the name of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Scott Rodin