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True success

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Jesus says that true blessing comes to those who hear and obey God’s Word.

“As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.’ He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it’” (Luke 11:27–28).

Over more than two decades of preaching, I can’t remember being interrupted by someone calling out from the audience. What would I do? Try to quickly assess the situation, call for the ushers to “deal with the situation,” answer the person? I’m not sure.

How does Jesus respond when an admirer interrupts him during a long teaching session? He isn’t being challenged; the woman is affirming him, or, more precisely, his mother. Rather than saying, ‘thank you,’ Jesus capitalizes on a teachable moment by turning attention away from his mother and from the woman (who may have expected blessing or commendation for her words). He turns attention away from his physical family to the family of God, those who inhabit God’s Kingdom.

Jesus says that true blessing comes to those who hear and obey God’s Word.


In Luke 11:28, Jesus defines success for Christ followers. You may be raising an eyebrow as you read this. You’re thinking, Jesus never spoke about success. He talked about following, believing, serving, loving and so on. Well, actually, he does define success and he does so very clearly.

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it,” Jesus says. Rather than what? Rather than, “Blessed is the mother who gave birth to you and nursed you.”

Jesus reorients the blessing toward the Kingdom of God and our obedient relationship to the Father.

Simply put, success is obedience to the will of the Father. Hearing – discerning and testing followed by obedience regardless of the cost. That is what Jesus modeled for us. That is success.

If you love me you will obey me, Jesus says (John 14:15). Scripture teaches us as Christ followers what it means to obey: how to live in relationship with each other. The Great Commission and Great Commandment. Guidelines for marriage and sexuality. Business relationships between Christ followers. And many more. Jesus invites us into ongoing dependence on the Holy Spirit to fulfill our Kingdom mandate. A church of any size can be wildly successful when its people are obedient to God’s leading.


God has given every Christ follower, every church, every ministry everything we need to fulfill his will for us. It is inconsistent for God to require something of us that he has not equipped us for. Success for a local church is not related to what other churches around it are doing. Success is obedience to God’s revelation through Scripture and the Holy Spirit. The question Jesus asks of us is “Have you discerned my leading and are you being obedient to that leading?”

This concept is simple to understand but difficult to do. We often struggle with discernment. We are unsure of God’s leading in our lives and in our churches. This creates uncertainty of direction and ambiguity of purpose. We judge the methods or motives of others by our personal ‘success grid’ rather than celebrating their obedience to the leading of the Spirit.

At times, we do things as Christ followers that God has not asked us to do – even though they are good things. Christ does not model a life of “good works”; he models obedience to the Father. The onus on Christ followers is to spend time with the Father as Jesus did. Spend time in his Word, learn to be led by the Spirit, discern his leading and follow in obedience. It’s not rocket science; it’s just not easy.

These principles apply to us as individuals, to our churches regardless of polity and to our governing boards. Our governance models give direction to the process, but discernment is still required.

As we prepare to meet in Toronto for Gathering 2016, the staff and board of CCMBC continue to seek God’s leading so that what we bring forward for discernment and decision will reflect the heart of God for us. Willy-ReimerWe also expect God to speak through the gathered community as you prepare your hearts and minds with prayer and discernment to process the ways before us.

— Willy Reimer is executive director of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. He lives in Calgary.

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