How should one define success in ministry? I think this is a very tough and very hard question. To answer it I am simply going to share a passage of scripture, then some thoughts.
20Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something.21And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”22Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.”23He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”24And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.25But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.26It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,27and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,28even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:20-28
The great among you must be your servant, and the first among you must be your slave. This tells me that success in ministry is vastly different than anything else we know or see in this world. We do not judge success the same way as the world. Our success is not in just numbers. Our success is not in budgets. Our success is not even measured very quickly. Rather it is how deeply did we penetrate the place to which we were called/sent with the Gospel or how much did we serve the people in a way that drew them into the Gospel of Christ. These are not things easy to quantify. They are hard and difficult, but they are the questions we should be seeking to answer as we evaluate ourselves. Not just our crowds and offering plates.