Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Success or significance?


By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.

All cross this Oklahoma Conference, I find pastors who demonstrate each and every day the principle of significance over success. It exists when a church decides to purchase over 22,000 Bibles, or package over 140,000 meals for hungry people, or develop a food pantry for a needy community.

In these places some of our churches have chosen to be significant, and I pray that will happen more and more.

I saw it happen just northwest of Oklahoma City in the community of Piedmont, where a tornado struck. It’s noteworthy to mention that Pastor Sam Powers was not content to say he was blessed to be spared by the tornado that just missed his church. Instead, he immediately got up and was a visible presence on the scene, helping others whose lives had been adversely affected by the storm.

That’s significance!

At the recent World Methodist Council, teams of volunteers gathered to prepare meal packages for starving children throughout Africa. The people who participated in that campaign returned home celebrating how good they felt to be part of something so meaningful.

Why can’t we do something like that? Why can’t we expand on collecting flood buckets and also go out into the community and work together on one or several projects? I believe such action will send a clear signal that we choose to be significant and will be a contribution that shows who we are and where we place our priorities!

Did you notice how the Apostle Paul writes to the church in Philippi? In the very first sentence, he states that his letter is written especially to pastors and ministers. He commends them for being faithful to their calling, and he prays that they will flourish in their love, not only loving much but also well. He goes on to say, "Live a life Jesus would be proud of, bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God."

There is another wonderful Gospel scene, when Peter reminds Christ that the disciples left everything they owned to follow him. "Yes," Jesus says, "and you won’t regret it."

Allow me to paraphrase his words: "No one who has shunned success and left everything will lose! It will all come back to you, multiplied many times over!"

The principle is this: Success follows significance! But it must come in that order.

You can have both, because of the feeling you receive when the Spirit of the Lord is upon you to preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for prisoners, recovery of sight to the blind, and set the captives free.

That feeling, my brothers and sisters, is priceless—and by every definition of the word you will be successful, regardless of the size of your church, or how high the steeple, or how many people sit in the pews!

The name Rachel Beckwith has been in the news this year. She was a 9-year-old who died in a car accident near Seattle. When she was very young, she learned there were children with cancer who lost their hair while being treated. At the age of 5, she decided to have her hair cut and donate it to Locks of Love, a charity that makes wigs for children.

A few years later, her church started raising money for a group that digs wells in developing nations to provide clean sources of water. So she decided to turn her birthday into a fundraiser. She wrote, "On June 12, I am turning 9. I found out that millions of people don’t live to see their fifth birthday. And why? Because they don’t have access to clean, safe water." She asked people to donate money to this cause instead of giving her presents.

On July 20, Rachel, her mother, and younger sister were involved in a terrible car crash on a highway near Seattle. She died three days later.

News went viral about her campaign to raise money for clean water for people who don’t have access to it, and more than $1 million has been raised in her name.

Her pastor, Ryan Meeks, said about Rachel: "For a 9-year-old kid to say, ‘Hey, for my birthday I don’t want anything. Give to those who are in greater need’ ... Not everyone is that mature at age 90. Rachel is modeling for us at the age of 9 how to live that kind of life."

After she died, her parents fittingly had her hair cut and given to Locks of Love, and her organs were donated to children in need. The money being donated in her name will provide water for more people than she ever could have imagined.

Most people would say there was no way Rachel could be successful at that young age. But I say that in her young life she was far more significant, and the success of touching countless thousands of lives will live on for years to come.

Her pastor concluded, "Life is coming out of death, with Rachel’s generosity."

As people of the Word of God, should we not know something about life coming out of death?

Jesus said you will not regret it if you forget about yourself and give up everything for His sake. You will get everything back and more—even eternal life!

Today the choice is yours. You can have success, or you can have significance. Choose significance, for if you do, success is guaranteed.


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