Success or Significance

There are many ways to measure success and all too often those of us who spend a significant time working in vocational ministry can easily be caught up in success and what defines it.  We can easily find ourselves adopting business practices that measure success in ways that often contradict the ways of God.  I wonder if instead of looking to measure success, we look towards measuring significance.

Success can be elusive and very subjective.  Everyone defines success differently and its measurability seems to be determined by what is most important to whoever defines it.  But how about significance?  Is it more measurable to determine significance than success?  How do we determine whether or not something is significant?

When I worked in the engineering field, I struggled with the significance of what I did.  That’s not to say that engineering work isn’t significant, I just couldn’t find a ton of significance for myself in what I was doing.  I was very successful, I had worked hard for my license, earned a second degree, and was moving up the ladder towards middle management, but I didn’t feel like I was doing anything significant.

After I began working as a minister, although I felt that what I was doing was more significant to me, it seemed that there was a struggle with defining success.  How do you define success?  It always seems to be measurable, and within the church it could often devolve to nothing but counting nickels and noses.  But is that the only way to define success?  How about significance?

Is the idea of significance more universal than success?  What defines significance?

Last month, I watched a news clip about a local weatherman in Detroit who followed a similar path to my own.  He was stepping down from his position as weatherman on the local news after 27 years.  He completed his seminary degree and he was beginning work in a church.  His final farewell is worth watching (click below).

One of the things that he says in this clip is that people have come to a place in the middle of their lives where they ask how to move their lives from success to significance.  What an incredible testimony this guy is to stepping down after such a long time.  My own transition happened after nearly 10 years in the engineering field.

I have a wise friend that once told me to find a job that I loved and I wouldn’t “work” a day in my life.  I’ve never forgotten that and I’ve been trying my best to pursue what I love so that I might find myself feeling like I was doing something more significant.

So, what’s significant to you?  How have you measured success?  Have you seen the difference?  Can you find yourself both successful and significant?


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