“In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity. The world will allow itself to be subdued only by success. It is not ideas or opinions which decide, but deeds. Success alone justifies wrongs done … With a frankness and off-handedness which no other earthly power could permit itself, history appeals in its own cause to the dictum that the end justifies the means … The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard.”

                                                                                 — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics

These are strong words. They allow no space for compromise, which is not surprising considering their source. According to Eric Metaxas’ powerful biography of the German pastor, Bonhoeffer held a long fascination with “the way people worship success.” Although Bonhoeffer’s words are doubtless influenced by the rise of Hitler and Nazism, they may bear relevance to us today.

In an era of the Church when success is increasingly measured by attendance numbers, offering amounts, or programs that the local church provides, we should give consideration to whether any of these represent success in the eyes of God. Should not the measure of our success as individual Christians be whether we are obedient to God? As the Church, is not the measure of success our fidelity to the Great Commission? Packing bodies into the pews — no matter how large the number — means little if we do not obey the command of Jesus to make disciples in His name.

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