Posted by: naccm | November 18, 2009

6 Dangers of Success Without Connectedness

Today we begin a thread about defining “success” in campus ministry.  I believe the thread will be exploratory and helpful in thinking broadly about personal integrity, effectiveness, measurability, teachability.  My hope is that in exploring the topic we are challenged to examine what we do AND the way we do campus ministry.  There will always be some tension between qualitative and quantitative measures, and I doubt that one should have a declarative say over the other.  So, this thread will explore the boundaries of both and hopefully provide some input to creating some evaluative structures that value not only the ends, but the means by which we get there.

Dean Trune is the Executive Director of Impact Campus Ministries and popular speaker at churches, campus ministries, retreats and conferences on the topic of prayer and intimacy with God.


We must measure our success in ministry by our “connectedness” with God which is really our intimacy with Him. Here are six success dangers when success is defined by what we do in ministry instead of our connectedness to God.

1. In our culture we are always thinking that bigger is better. In most cases it is. Not so with ministry. A wise man once said that as we add depth to our relationship with God, He adds breadth to our ministry. We have all observed some ministries that are as wide (big) as the ocean but are only about a quarter inch deep. That does not honor God. That honors us. Certainly is much easier to count numbers than to evaluate depth. If we desire a quick test of fruitfulness, counting provides a ready assessment. Jesus did not say, “Go and make converts.” He used the term “disciples” not converts. I have seen many ministries give up on making disciplines (spiritual growth) and settle for numerical growth. They are not the same. Focusing on spiritual growth will eventually bring about numerical growth but not visa-verse. So focusing on size may be a cultural measurement but it is not a Biblical measurement.

2. For many Christians, our self-image is based on what people think or is based on our position. So when we show fruit in a ministry, it automatically increases our self-image. Similarly, when we show lack fruit in a ministry, our self-image takes a nose dive. Our Christian culture even supports this. We honor those who look successful externally but ignore those do not look as sharp ministry-wise. We are always looking for new ways to increase the size of the crowd. We want to hear these “successful” people speak. We want to read their books. I believe that God looks elsewhere. He does not seem to be really interested in large crowds. Consider Luke 14:25. “Large crowds were traveling with Him…” and Jesus lays out a high standard for discipleship ever the next nine verses. Jesus’ self-image apparently was not based on how many He attracted. The Christian’s self-image must be based on what God thinks, not on what people think. My connectedness to God is the divine source of my self-image.

3. Growing ministries provides a source for pride and arrogance. Connectedness with God provides a source for humility. Without the classroom of humility, pride becomes our guide. Since God “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”, much of our opposition in ministry can come from God Himself if we are not pursuing Him as He desires.

4. We will either worship God or “gods”. If we allow ministry to become our “god” then everything in life will revolve around our own ministry and glorifying ourselves. If we allow God to be our God, then everything in life revolves around glorifying Him. Satan loves to have us play the pride game by helping us think that it is all about us.

5. We either have the concept that we are ministering FOR God or ministering WITH God. I realize that it is only a preposition but the idea of ministering with God allows Him to still be God and me His disciple. God wants partnership not ownership from us. If He is our God and partner, He will work through us. If through ownership (I own this ministry) He will be forced to work around us. Yes, God can do good things through us in spite of us, but I simply have to believe He thoroughly enjoys working WITH us.

6. If I evaluate success by ministry, it will invariably lead to self-centeredness not God-centeredness. Self-centeredness leads to sin, affairs, arrogance, non-love, division, church splits, self-dependence, self-exaltation, dictatorial attitudes, discouragement, distractions, and much more. These attitudes and actions do not glorify God in the least. In fact, His reputation takes a hit every time these attitudes and actions become public.



  1. Thanks, Dean, for this much needed reminder.

    The critics will likely say, “Numbers are the best way to measure fruitfulness/success.” But I’ve come to learn that often times God’s “fruit” does not look like what we expected. The fruit He produces through us is indeed good, but very often unpredictable in form.

    We limit God when we say that “numbers” are THE measure and we are likely to miss out on the better produce when our focus is on the size of the crowd.

    Again, great reminder! Thank you,

  2. Thanks for this reminder Dean. Great words of wisdom!

  3. […] Heart of Campus Ministry […]

  4. […] Synergist, isn’t He?) HeartOfCampusMinistry began a weekly series on the topic – with a post by the much-respected Dean Thune. (I’ll be posting in that series in a few weeks!) Aaron […]

  5. […] a retrospective approach to defining success, and having initially launched in Boston under Impact, Dean Trune’s reminder about the pursuit of connectedness is always foundational.  I also appreciated […]

  6. […] back a little further, you can still check out Heart of Campus Ministry’s original post on the topic by Dean Thune. Aaron Klinefelter chimed in with an “ecological” definition of college ministry […]

  7. […] Dean Thune on the danger of “success” without connectedness […]

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