Every follower of Jesus is to be living missionally (see my previous two posts for the support of this statement). To live missionally, from a Biblical perspective, is to be on the lookout for ways to give away the message and love of Jesus. If we have this mindset, we will begin to see a plethora of opportunities on a daily basis. As you move out in with this mindset, you will be overwhelmed with joy as you realize just how much Jesus is enjoying watching you farm the soil of souls for His Kingdom.
Success in the church world often is equaled to the growth of numbers. We read through the book of Acts and we see 3,000, 5,000, and multitudes of people coming to know faith in Jesus and we assume that if we are doing things right or well, that we too will see at least some significant growth. We also look at Mark 4, the parable of the sower and the seed, and we yearn to find the 'gold mine' of the fourth and productive soil. But we often do not stop at the fourth soil. We desire for the largest harvest of the fourth soil, the '100 fold' harvest mentioned in Mark 4. These are not bad desires. If we think that success is mostly understood with numbers or largeness, then most will be sad, disappointed or even angry. Most believers follow after Jesus with strong hearts and do not see this type of 'success.'
When Jesus was arrested, tried for crimes He didn't commit and eventually crucified, everyone abandoned Him and Peter denied he even knew Jesus. At the end of Paul's life, we read in 2 Timothy 4 that everyone deserted him and some of those people simply didn't want to pay the price any longer (see 2 Tim. 4:10). If numbers often speak of success, then Jesus and Paul were not successful. But numbers are not how we should measure success.
Success from a Christians perspective should be measured by obedience, faithfulness and humility in our following of Christ Jesus. Our culture is so focused on 'success' and 'growth' that we often forget that we are NOT responsible for the results. God may even allow you to do everything right and well and still not have the results in numbers that desired. He may do this to help you realize that it really isn't about you, your personality or your methodology. On the other hand, God may watch you do many things in screwy ways and choose to bless you with amazing abundance.
Allow me to quote just two short passages to help you understand that growth or numbers are not the measuring stick for success.
"After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God's servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It's not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What's important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. " 1 Cor. 3:5-8 NLT
"Jesus said, 'The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he's asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. The earth produces the crops on its own.'" Mark 4:26-28 NLT
In both these passages, the one who sows the seed is obedient - nothing more. After planting the seed or watering the seed, it grows under God's direction, all by itself. The farmer does not know how it happens. He is clueless and he often is asleep on the job! That sounds like an inviting job description to me.
So in order to be successful at living missionally, all we have to do is to be obedient, faithful and humble to tell people the Good News with the words that Christ puts in our mouth. We must have a focused life that is looking for the opportunities that Christ puts in our path and when we spy them, we should share whatever Christ gives us to say.
So go out and be successful by being obedient to the missional living Christ has called us to and has already equipped us to do. Jesus is responsible for any results and that takes the pressure off of having to be 'successful.'
So what do you think about these thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment on this blog or send me an e-mail.
Next time let's look at what Jesus promises everyone of us when we engage in sharing the Good News as we live missionally.