Ministry Today | Serving and empowering church leaders

Foundations of Success

Success doesn't just happen automatically. Three essential components play a major role in ensuring that we fulfill our destiny.

"If you can carry faith, family and finances and not destroy one in pursuit of another, nothing will be impossible to achieve."

sn't it interesting how so many things come in threes? There are three dimensions of the Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And there are three parts of man: spirit, soul and body. There are three stages of life: eternity past, eternity present and eternity future.

Paul, in his Epistles, references the trinity of faith, hope and charity. The Hebrew chronologist speaks of the inner court, the outer court and the holy of holies. Even our government breaks down into three branches: the executive, the judicial and the legislative.

From my life and ministerial experience, I have observed another group of three: faith, family and finances. These three components are essential to our happiness and success as travelers on this journey called life.

As travelers, specifically as travelers with a ministerial call, we can only carry a limited number of bags if we are to move efficiently and effectively to our desired destination. Too much baggage, and we get weighted down, caught up in the minutia of a mundane existence. But if we carry too little baggage, we will lack the necessities to sustain us on our trip.

I believe that there are three "bags" we should all carry:

faith, for the hard times

family, for the fulfillment of intimate and interpersonal needs

finances, through which one acquires the luxury of options.

In my pastoral experience, faith, family and finances form a threefold cord that is not easily broken. As a minister of the gospel, if you can carry these three and not destroy one in the pursuit of another, nothing will be impossible to achieve. Just three things for a lifelong trip--but what a powerful three they are.

Faith is essential for your journey. Faith is that indescribable strength, that secret weapon of the soul, which allows us to persevere even when the facts seem damning and the truth unbearable. It is what keeps us going when travel conditions are unfavorable, and we're not sure we can continue. It is the light that leads us out of the darkness, and the map that guides our way.

Many of our colleagues have faltered in their faith, pulled over to the side of the road, given up and sat watching everyone else pass them by. Yes, even as Christian leaders, sometimes faith seems in short supply. In the pressures of normal ministry mixed with spiritual warfare, unusual adversity and hard times, we may have a tendency to turn our backs and deny God's glory.

But it is at these very times when we need our faith the most. When we trust in the Lord and believe with utmost confidence that He will guide us, we can withstand and walk through anything. We must remember that faith is like a muscle--trouble and opposition may strain it, but in the end it will grow stronger.

A loving, nurturing family. Also essential to a successful journey is the solid support of a loving and nurturing family. Unfortunately, in this day and age, this is a scarce commodity. But let's stop for a moment and define family. Certainly it is mother and father, sister and brother, spouse and child. But it also encompasses aunts and uncles, grandparents, godparents, distant relatives and close friends.

When I speak of family, I mean those whose arms have held you, whose words have lifted you and whose values have kept you rooted. As leaders, we need the unconditional love and understanding of family, whether that be birth family, adopted family or close friends.

We need safe places where we can leave our titles, calls and giftings on the doorstep and just be mere mortals. We find refuge in safe relational places where we can play and rest and let what hair we have remaining down with people who love us not for our latest sermon, but because we are daddy, or lover or friend.

But family, in whatever form, needs strategic planning, unfaltering commitment and concerted effort. We need to invest in family. We all want the return, but we do not always realize that there is an investment required. And we must realize that the investment may be long-term.

Your family will pay you back, but typically over decades, not weeks, months or even years. It is a long-term investment with inequities along the way. However, eventually you will reap a return on your investment. It may come in one moment of need, during a crisis, or it may trickle out in little "be there" moments that are significant to you. But you will reap only what you have sown.

As ministers, we face the danger that we sow into our church family but neglect our biological family and our friends. Then we wake up one day and find, in our moment of need, a harvest of brokenness and pain.

So, let the long, laborious process of sowing begin. Every season we miss is a cycle we lose. And every cycle we lose is a harvest delayed.

The critical issue of finances. In my experience, what needs to be addressed most is finances. This issue has, for so long, been a taboo subject among people of faith. For some, a focus on piety has caused them to lag behind in the area of finances. They are taught that money is the root of all evil and should thus be forsaken.

I have found that every dream needs financing. Every talent needs a stage. Every message needs a method of conveyance. Ideas die without the funds to realize them. As Christian leaders, we have a great message and a wonderful philosophy of living; they should not be muted by a lack of financial dexterity.

There are those who get caught up in the material world and equate wealth with strength of faith. They mistakenly believe God's blessings can be counted simply in dollars and cents, and that one's financial status is an indication of one's status in the eyes of the Lord.

They begin pursuing money for money's sake. Material goods become their god, and banks become their church. They lose sight of the fact that although God does indeed bless us with financial success, we should be mindful to worship the Giver and not the gift.

We need to find the equilibrium between the monastic philosophy of gross poverty and the obsessive pursuit of wealth as a means of displaying one's spirituality. We need to invest and develop a plan that will enable us to benefit from the gifts God wants to bestow upon us. Faithfulness in practical matters coupled with faithfulness to God and His Word will unlock the blessing of the Lord. We must learn to combine faith with works.

Invest in your future. As leaders, we need to knit together the threefold cord of faith, family and finances. The garment we knit today is one that is designed to insulate us from the cold chill of regret and despair that comes when one fails to maximize his or her moments and misses the opportunities to invest in life.

All of life is an investment. Where there is great investment, there will be great return. Where there is little investment, there is little return.

Life doesn't afford us the opportunity to pay what we like and still gain what we want. We need to determine our priorities, develop a balanced investment strategy between faith, family and finances, and make a deposit today so that we can reap the rewards tomorrow.

Don't fall into the trap, as so many in our profession have, that we only invest in the ministry and hope God will make up the rest. Have a balanced portfolio, and the long-term payoff will be more rewarding.

We must be like the ants and prepare for tomorrow, today. I know a lot of people who failed to be like the ants, and in the winter of their lives were depressed and resentful, cursing their wasted youth. They didn't invest in the future, and later in life they found themselves in a financial, emotional and spiritual state of poverty. They died poor, bitter and complaining to God for lack of an invested life's plan.

"Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest--and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man" (Prov. 6:6-11, NIV).

The ants are preparing, the birds are building their nests, and the beaver is constructing his dam. All of creation invests in the future, prepares for the winter and delays gratification for the purpose of a better tomorrow.

With our trust fully in the Lord, we should follow their lead, put action with our faith and begin to set our sights on tomorrow while maximizing our moments today. We need to invest in faith, family and finances, and let these three form the foundation of all our success in life and ministry.

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