4 Counterintuitive Success Strategies for Faith-Centered Leaders

Published December 13, 2017

What is the key to organizational success?

Decades ago, when I was CEO of Parker Brothers and Lenox, my answer would have involved organizational restructuring, robust employee training programs, expert recruiting, maybe high-paid management consultants.

But for an organization, church or ministry that represents Jesus Christ, those methods only go so far. We’re aiming for more than success by earthly standards, but to shine a light in our world. And we know from Scripture that success flows out of our obedience and faithfulness to God. “All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 28:2)

So the key to success lies in each of us, the individuals who make up the ministry. God’s way of living leads to success, not just because God blesses our faithfulness (which He often does), but because living out His principles leads naturally to positive outcomes. When you have an organization of employees living the kingdom way, you will quite naturally have a successful organization.

Let me explain by laying out four biblically-grounded principles that will pave the way to success for the Christian employee and success for our organizations.

  1. Commit career suicide

John 12:24 tells us, Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

We all have our own career plans and goals. And we tend to bring our own agendas, for ourselves and the organization, into the workplace. But if you’re obsessed with your own agenda, you can totally miss God’s plan.

We need to die to self. Committing career suicide means putting our needs aside and submitting our will to the needs of others. It means not striving for a title or position. By emptying ourselves of pride and ambition, we become a servant God can use.

  1. Repeal the Miranda rights

Philippians 2:12-13 says, Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

“You have the right to remain silent….” From the Miranda rights to the Bill of Rights. America is all about demanding our rights.

But Christianity is all about abdicating our rights. In ministry, we have no right to a promotion, to impose our agenda on others or to receive special treatment relating to rank.

Instead, it’s our privilege to serve Christ, who took on “the very nature of a servant” for our sake.

  1. Play football, not tennis

1 Corinthians 12:12 reminds us, Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.

Tennis is a fine sport, but it’s not a team sport. The outcome is totally dependent on the individual. And “love” means you shut the other guy out.

God designed the Church differently. It was created to operate as a team. Cooperation is valued, credit is shared and individuals put the good of the team ahead of themselves if they want to win. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 emphasizes mutual respect, valuing differences, and power through unity. Christ’s team plays by these rules rather than reaching for the solo title.

  1. Don’t worry, be happy

Matthew 6:25,33 tells us, Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life … But seek first his kingdom and righteousness.

Perhaps the greatest enemy to our Christian walk and work is anxiety. We worry about reorganizations, job changes, financial insecurity and failure.

Worry leads to dysfunction, such as defensiveness and paranoia. And it prevents us from trusting God for the outcome He intends.

The way through worry is to seek God’s kingdom. God knows what we need, even in the midst of workplace changes. By focusing on Him instead of our fears, all that we require for serving Him will come.

When we apply these strategies, amazing things happen.

  • Our ambition is replaced by servanthood.
  • We value others’ rights above our own.
  • Competition turns to harmony.
  • Anxiety gives way to peace.

And our ministry becomes a tool that is useful and pleasing to God.

About the Author(s)
Rich Stearns

Rich Stearns


World Vision

Rich Stearns has brought strong leadership and oversight to World Vision U.S.since 1998, when he left his position as CEO of Lenox to follow what he felt was a distinct call from God on his life. He holds a B.A. in neurobiology from Cornell University and an MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Stearns is the author of several books including The Hole in Our Gospel and Unfinished.