Ansgar was a ninth century missionary to the Scandanavian area. We know about him from statues, a biography and other sources. He was the first to establish Christian churches in Denmark. Yet, after his death in 865, those churches disappeared. While Ansgar has his own Wikipedia article and is known in Church History, he probably would not get invited to speak at major conferences, nor would he write best selling church planting books. Ansgar was faithful to his calling, yet we do not look to him for great sermons or helping to ignite a mass movement of Christianity. One scholar has said, “Ansgar pushed against a door that was not ready to be opened.”
Many of us in ministry are captive to celebrity. We buy the latest books by “successful” pastors and Christian leaders. We pay money to attend conferences and training seminars where we hear sermons we could never preach, listen to music performed at a level we could never attain, and learn techniques our gifts and abilities are unable to implement. That is not to say we cannot learn or improve, but it is to that most of us are, well, ordinary.
The average church in the US has around 100 attending weekly.If you pass 250 that puts you in the top 10% in the nation! If you plant in the PCA, it takes around 100 or so, depending upon geographic context, to generate enough income for you to end the fundraising letters and start the particularization paperwork. Sometimes it seems to be about the numbers.
Yet, to what are we called? Do we commit to numbers, demographics, church metrics and influence or do we commit to faithfulness? I think you know the answer. And in that answer, we can evaluate whether or not Ansgar was a failure or success.