Skip to content
Need some Easter Sermon inspiration? Check out our Easter Sermon Collection Learn more
Go back


The Measure of Our Success: An Interview with Shawn Lovejoy

I’ve known Shawn Lovejoy for several years. He planted and has pastored Mountain Lake Church for the past 11 years, and leads the ChurchPlanters.Com conference, which I’ve been pleased to speak at a few times. Shawn is one of the good guys– he loves his church, he loves his wife, and he loves pastors. As such, I was excited about his new book, The Measure of Our Success, and wanted to share the interview below with you.

How has the definition of success in ministry changed over the years, and what should be our measuring stick for success?

I actually believe the pendulum has begun to swing back in a healthy direction. Twenty years ago, one of the first questions asked among two pastors in a conversation, was: “What are you running now?” In other words, “Is your church bigger than mine?” These days, I don’t hear that conversation as much among my peers. I believe that’s a good thing. I’m not saying church growth is not a measurement we need. It just simply cannot be the only measurement. I really believe that the ultimate measurement of success has more to do with our faithfulness, than our ministry fruitfulness. If you think about it, Jesus’ call wasn’t primarily about us bearing fruit. He told us to stay connected to Him, and He would bear the fruit through us. Too many of us as pastors have gotten those two things backward.

You have several contributions in the book by leading pastors from around the country. How have they influenced your ministry both in your personal relationship with them and by watching them from afar?

I’m amazed at the list of contributors and the contributions other pastors have made to this book: Friends like JD Greear, Mark Batterson, Tim Stevens, and Greg Surratt made this a much better book. I have learned something from all of these men. Their insights are similar, but unique to the subject matter I cover, and I wanted other pastors to hear their insights on the same subjects. These pastors are all so different and bring insights that would never have been shared otherwise. However, it takes a secure leader to learn from someone else, especially someone who’s different or has different views. I always take the posture that I can learn something from anyone! Too many pastors compare, condemn, or copy other pastors who aren’t just like them, because of their own insecurity. I talk about these three C’s of unhealthy measurement in the book.

Why do pastors fall into the trap of the 3 C’s of Unhealthy Measurement (comparing, copying, and condemning) and how can they avoid them?

Too many of us are insecure in our own skin. We’re in some silent competition in our own minds with every other church or pastor. We feel insignificant or even unloved when God seems to bless another church more than the one we serve, rather than celebrating what is happening for the Kingdom. All of this breeds the discontentment and discouragement so many pastors feel today.

Jesus said: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” So what’s our problem? As pastors we place yokes on ourselves and even other pastors that Jesus never put on us. That’s why we’re so weighed down. As pastors, we must come back daily to our unique callings and giftings. Most pastors will never be mega-church pastors…because they were never meant to be! I talk in the book about how we can we can take off the yoke that we’re trying to put on, or someone else is trying to put on us, and live and work with Jesus’ call alone on our lives.

The relationship between a pastor and his wife is critical. What steps can pastors take to strengthen that relationship, both for the health of their marriage and the health of the church?

What gets on the calendar gets done. What gets in the budget gets done. In the first two years of our church plant, my wife, Tricia, and I didn’t take one day. We didn’t have the “time” or the “money” to do so. I’ve since come to realize all of that rhetoric is a cop-out. The biggest lie from Hell I ever believed since planting the church, is that “when things slow down” I’ll get my relationships back on track. Ministry never slows down. I must prioritize and even systemize space to cultivate not only my relationship with Jesus, but my relationships with others. Pastors, in general don’t do relationships all that well. That has become increasingly important for me over the last decade. I have also learned that if I want my spouse to partner with me in ministry, I must partner with her at home. The street goes both ways. When I’m involved in her world, she wants to be more involved in mine. It hasn’t always been this way, but today, Tricia and I are partners in every way. In the book, I spend a great deal of time talking about how we’ve done it.

Why is “love” the most forgotten metric in a church?

First of all, too many of us as pastors have measured our ministries by what we are against. We take these hard stances against this signaled out sin or that perceived sin. However, as I read the Gospels– and especially Revelation– I hear Jesus saying: “The biggest sin you can commit is to neglect love!

Secondly, too many of us measure success by our expositional or creative or leadership genius, when Paul says if we all of that, and have not love, we have nothing. Zip. I truly believe pastors need to lead the church back to the way of love. I truly believe God’s Word can be summed up in one word: Love. Jesus said if we get that right, everything else will take care of itself. Why do we have to complicate it?

How have your ministry team values, you call it “The Code,” contributed to the success of Mountain Lake Church?

I’ve frankly never run across a church with a non-biblical mission statement. I have run across a lot of churches with unhealthy cultures. I believe that a healthy culture is the vehicle in which a biblical vision travels. “The code” at Mountain Lake protects a healthy staff and leadership culture. We hold ourselves accountable for living out the “one anothers” of the New Testament. The reason our church is unified is not because we never have conflict. Our church is unified today because the leaders have held our church accountable to handle conflict God’s way and speak the truth in love.

How should pastors deal with criticism of their ministry or their church?

First of all, too many pastors equate a lack of criticism with success. If everyone’s happy, then we must be doing our jobs right. However, as I look at prophets of both the Old and New Testaments, they didn’t win any popularity contests. They spoke truth that ran against the grain. Most of them had people trying to kill them their entire lives! That sounds like Jesus to me! I really believe we must travel the journey of being freed up from the opinions of what people think of us and live to please an Audience of One. When I truly come to the place where I can care only about hat Jesus thinks of me, that’s actually a freeing place to live. If I’m successful in His eyes, isn’t that all that matters?

Related Posts

Subscribe to Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox

Weekly Email for Pastors and Church Leaders

    We care about your data. Read our privacy policy.

    Pastor Rick Warren smiling