I sat listening as a Zulu pastor unburdened his ministry challenges. He is a well respected community leader and an excellent testimony for the Lord. God has greatly blessed his ministry. But while listening I realized something: many of his upcoming decisions could make or break the ministry. They were sink or swim.
My next thought hit me like a mortar. For so long I have been focused on the success of “my ministry”, but here was a ministry on the verge of collapse. If his ministry failed it will be a huge blow to the spread of the gospel. The most important thing I could right now was to do was lay aside “my ministry” and focus on building up “his ministry”.
By empowering this pastor, his ministry would continue to succeed long after I am gone. It would succeed in culturally relevant ways that I never could. And if ten pastors like him could be empowered, then their success multiplies, reaching far more people than I ever could. Enduring. Culturally relevant. Multiplying.
As we launch into Zulu pastoral training, how I define success is very important. Will I define success by what I accomplish (how many pastors I train) or by what others accomplish (seeing pastors succeed)? I realize that my thinking needed to change. I need to redefine success. I used to define success as: seeing my ministry flourish. Sure, I was happy when others succeeded, but my success was not connected to their’s. But now, as I pour all of my energies into other pastors' ministries, their success is my success.
Flagship vs. Submarine Ministries
To redefine success, my pride takes a direct hit. It is nice to say: "look what my ministry accomplished". There is always a strong temptation in ministry to have a flagship ministry. Just as a naval force’s flagship is the most well known and important, a flagship ministry is the highly visible ministry that everyone sees. This is not to say that flagship ministries are wrong! They are needed. But if there is an existing flagship, a second one just gets in the way.
In our area, more submarines are needed, not more flagships. A submarine ministry takes a different approach: empower the flagship. Just as a naval flagship has multiple submarines offering support, so submarine ministries offer support to the flagship ministry. Rarely seen. Always empowering. It exists to help the flagship succeed. That is success.
Pray that God blesses these pastor's ministries and helps them to succeed. Pray also that I will be a faithful submarine!
Missionary Gary Strange teaching Zulu pastors