How do you measure success? As believers, do we measure our personal and ministry success in the same way as the world? Should we? In addition to these, the most important question to consider is how the Lord measures success. Beyond that, are we even supposed to measure success at all?
In the modern-day body of Christ, we emphasize numbers, using them to determine our level of success personally, for the ministry, or for a particular aspect of the ministry. If the numbers are good (whatever good is), we feel we are successful. If we compare numbers with someone else, finding ours lower, we begin to put a negative spin on what they are doing, “Yes, but you know they don’t or aren’t . . .” to make ourselves feel better about our lower numbers. Either that, or we seek to do exactly what they are doing so we’ll have the same outcome as theirs. Think about these questions so frequently asked among believers: How many answered the altar call? How many people are in your church, denomination, Bible study, etc.? How many visitors attended? How many people watch the program? What is your weekly attendance?
While these and other similar questions are related more to a church or ministry, I will give you a personal example that occurred when I moved my blog to this address. In setting up the blog, I opted to include blog statistics on the home page, for anyone to see how many visitors have come to my site. It’s amazing how that number began to shift my focus. It’s hard to describe, but I could really feel myself puffing up as the numbers went higher. Then I began to feel pressure to produce more writings to keep my customers coming, so to speak. Pride made a big entrance in an attempt to get me off course and weaken the effectiveness. God didn’t call me to do this so you and I could be impressed about how many people clicked To Make Christ Known. Nor did He call me to write just to keep people returning. No, He gave me this blog to bring forth His Truth, at the leading of His Spirit, so all of us can know Jesus Christ more and make Him known to others.
Whether in personal or larger ministry examples, what does it prove if the numbers are good, according to our standards? The truth is, our egos are fed, and we feel our value and worth are proven, and that somehow we have accomplished something. It is pride. Let’s burst that sinful bubble: The people who click on my site may not even read what is written. The number of people who go to the altar, attend a service, or who are on a membership roll is no guarantee of changed hearts. We cannot truly consider ourselves successful with the numbers we like to throw around. God looks at the lives behind the numbers – the lives of the people to whom we are reaching out with His Truth. Are they being transformed into His likeness, becoming stronger disciples?
John 15:8 “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” NIV
God is not interested in numbers, but in fruit. In Acts 2:41, we read that 3000 were added to the church in one day, but that wasn’t so we in the 21st century could gauge our success by it. That number reveals the life-changing power in preaching the uncompromised gospel of Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, which brings conviction and repentance. Rather than focusing on what they did so we can get the same numbers, we need to focus our efforts on preaching and living the uncompromised gospel of Jesus Christ in the same way, leaving the results to Him, and expecting much fruit.
Colossians 1:10 “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,” NIV
Romans 7:4 “So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to Him Who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.” NIV
There isn’t an accurate way to measure the fruit being produced by our lives and ministries, but we are not to be concerned with measuring anyway. God is looking for the fruit of changed lives, including ours, as a result of what we do. We can trust Him to bring forth the evidence – the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) – so that Jesus is seen more clearly in every one of us because we do what He calls us to do in the way He calls us to do it.
How does God measure success? Not by the numbers, but by the fruit!