A Biblical Alternative to “Success”
When it comes to ministry outcome, many times we are most concerned with being “successful.” We ask, “Was this event a success?” May I suggest an alternative: “fruitfulness.” This appears, to me, to be more Biblical. Take a moment and do refresher readings of John 15:1-11 and Galatians 5:22-26. By the way, there are over 300 passages in the Bible on fruit bearing.
What are the obvious benefits to this way of thinking?
- God gets the glory; this is the way it should always be.
- We show our authenticity as His disciples to a lost and cynical world.
- We honestly acknowledge that we can’t bear fruit without Jesus; this is both humbling and challenging. We are totally dependent upon Him, not ourselves or our human resources and efforts.
- We cannot fail. If it is Jesus working in us and through us, failure is impossible. When we depend upon Him, the final result is always HIS, not ours.
- The emphasis is not numbers or human effort, but Jesus. This is exciting because church members get to see how Jesus can work in and through them. This creates deeper faith and more enthusiasm for doing His work.
- It is my personal opinion that there will be less burnout and stress when we approach ministry in this manner. Success, in its human definition, is impossible to achieve and as a result causes stress. Bearing fruit comes easier because the Lord is in control and because He doesn’t expect the impossible from us. He simply expects us to do what we have been divinely designed to do.
What does fruit look like? Changed attitudes: people no longer worry; they pray instead. People no longer hold grudges; they forgive. People are no longer bigoted; they are accepting and loving. People no longer just sit in a pew; they sing, they participate, they get involved in the life of the church, they love the brethren and get to know them. Members no longer are dependent upon the professionals; they depend upon the Lord. Members no longer expect the church to grow; members contribute to the growth and welfare of the church. These are all (good) fruits (see Galatians 5:22-26),
The point is simple: our goal in ministry should always be fruitfulness. We must first approach the Lord with our goals and ask His blessing and wisdom. We need to decide what fruit He wants for us to bear before we execute our plans, and as we make our plans. And, then, after the ministry event, we need to evaluate by asking, “what good fruit was born?” “How did the Lord work through us?” “What did He want us to learn?”
We are less likely to burn out, be discouraged, dread the next project, and feel stressed with this emphasis. This is a mindset (paradigm) issue. The church needs to get out of the “success” business and into the fruit-bearing business. The solution to our lack of involvement in the church is to raise up a generation of church members who are first and foremost disciples of Christ. Jesus said one of the identifying marks of a disciple is bearing much good fruit.
Bearing fruit may not be as ‘colorful’ as being ‘successful.’ But it is God-pleasing and it brings Him the glory He rightfully deserves. And, more than that, we never fail when we bear fruit.
Our 2014 “Down on the Farm” congregational focus emphasized the four ways we bear fruit for the Lord. We had 100% participation.
I have a 13 lesson book entitled “God’s Field.” It is a study of fruit bearing in the Bible and how the Lord’s church is called to bear fruit. I often tell church leaders: if we could get a whole generation thinking Biblically about this, we’d never ever have another problem with spiritual and numerical growth, and we’d always have enough folks involved in ministry.