Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Measuring Success

There are actually quite a few things that have come together to build this post. Back in May, I attended theLEAD Network (a college leadership ministry of theMILL at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO) and listened to Aaron Stern, New Life Church's college and 20-somethings Pastor, deliver the first sermon in a series titled "Success". During that sermon, Aaron talked about what we consider successful in today's culture and what success looks like before God. He used the prophet Jeremiah to illustrate this. At the time it really didn't strike any specific cord with me. Months went by and really I hadn't thought about it. Then a few weeks ago I got to the book of Jeremiah in my daily readings. Still really didn't think nothing of it, beyond the fact that Jeremiah had a horrible job and life must of sucked.

A short time later God really started prompting me to consider what it means to have a servants heart. It was about that time that I started my Contemporary Evangelism class and Pastor Jeff, Element Church Lead Pastor, started a new series called "Be". The new series is centered on realizing the potential of the local church to meet the needs of their community and BE Christ's love to them. With all that, God helped me to see the book of Jeremiah in a very different way.

Undoubtedly, the task that God gave Jeremiah was a difficult one. Basically God commissioned Jeremiah to be the prophet that told the people of Israel that they were going to be destroyed. He was to warn them that Jerusalem would fall and they would either die from famine and disease or by the sword. And those that did not die, would be taken into captivity by the Babylonians and die in a foreign land. Not the guy you want to be in Jerusalem at that point. Needless to say he was not often received well and often time was rejected and threatened to be killed. Yet through him sharing all God's warnings and pleading for the people to repent, they did not. Ultimately, Jerusalem was destroyed and the Israelites were lead in to captivity in Babylon. By all accounts and outward appearances, Jeremiah was not successful. He never got the Israelites to repent.

But, in God's view he was successful. God didn't tell him to rescue the Israelites, but to simply deliver His word to them. God told him to "Go and shout this message to the people of Jerusalem" and he did. The fact is that God did not judge Jeremiah's success in the number of people that listened to his message, but by His obedience to take the message to them, regardless of his feelings.

Here's the twist, God has given us the same command. In Acts 1:8, Jesus said, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” He said we will be His witnesses to all and just tell them about Him. He never said you have to convince anyone to repent. It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict people and have them wrestle with God and His word.

In going through my evangelism class and the current "Be" series, it becomes inarguable that our actions must match the words we speak. Jesus did not just talk about being a servant, He lived it. If we simply talk the talk without walking the walk, there is zero credibility in what we say. A pastor friend of mine, Charles Robertson, asked a few weeks ago, "Do people believe that you believe what you say you believe?" The only way to convince people that you believe what you say you do is to live it. Then it becomes real.

The way we live and what we say, must be connected to each other and one must validate the other. In an article titled Incarnational Apologetics, by Dr. David Wheeler, he said, “Think about it, 'informational' apologetics without 'incarnational' validation will often lead to hypocrisy. On the other hand, 'incarnational' apologetics without an 'informational' foundation of biblical truth will often lead to heresy.”

The bottom line is, we do need to tell people about Christ and His love, but without showing them, our words are useless. The best way to prove Jesus is to love people and we do that by meeting their needs. But, we have to go to them to meet their needs. We can't expect them to come to us, that isn't what Jesus commanded.

So, how do we measure success before Christ? Do we measure it by the number of people outside the church that we bring inside? Or do we measure it by the the number of people inside the church that are obedient to God's call and go to those outside the church?

Going for Christ,
Bruce