The past years have been filled with a great deal of success. We have experienced this success together, and given thanks together. God’s blessings are undeniable.
The Children of Prisoners Programme operates in nine countries, serving nearly 4,000 children. The Prisoner’s Journey® is will be running in 26 countries with almost 130,000 prisoners graduating from the course in 2017. Both programmes have significantly helped build the capacity of our affiliates. And now our third programme, the Sycamore Tree Project® NEW LEAF, has been successfully redesigned, piloted in two countries, and is ready to rollout out to eight more in 2018.
And truthfully, our staff’s desire for success makes us want to expand these programmes faster and further.
But lately, God has been reminding me about how dangerous success can be for a ministry like Prison Fellowship International. It takes only a quick reading of Scripture to see Jesus identifies much more closely with unsuccessful people—those who suffer, live in poverty, are sick and oppressed.
Thankfully, these past few months God has spoken to me clearly about our corporate humility. I have meditated on two Scriptures, repeatedly, as I try to understand the balance between God-glorifying hard work and the temptation and allure of worldly success:
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you” (Romans 12:3, NIV).
“In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:5–7, NIV).
God has repeatedly reminded me we need to guard ourselves from becoming proud, overly confident, and from thinking we can do any of this ministry our way.
Being humble is not something leaders typically aspire to. We value and strive to be assertive, hardworking, and proactive. Humility is hard to find today—even in Christian ministries. But as I read these Scripture verses, and reflect on my greatest desire to honor God with all we do, I know humility is foundational to our corporate character.
It is not doing it “our way” that pleases God, even if we are successful. And I’m deeply convicted about how our humility and dependence needs to grow radically as our successes continue to mount.
The mission of Prison Fellowship International is to serve and support our affiliates. John 13 admonishes us to clothe ourselves with humility. I’m certain this is our only correct way forward. By meditating on this, and truly understanding our place in this ministry with God as our head, we can joyfully run the race that’s marked out for us—even when plans don’t succeed as we thought they should, or even when our plans have to change.
As CEO, I want to lead this work in a way that brings God glory. In the words of Olympic gold medalist Eric Liddell in the movie Chariots of Fire, when I work—when our ministry efforts succeed—I want us to feel God’s pleasure.
We all know pride will destroy our effectiveness as an organisation, and I ask you to join with me in praying God continues to fill us with humility as we lead and serve. And that we’d lead our teams in a way that gives Him pleasure and glory.