AS MANY OF US IN MINISTRY CAN ATTEST, we like to measure how effective we have been. Measuring gives us opportunity to report. In fact, there are entire ministries dedicated to assisting other ministries with measuring!
The question: “How are things at your church?” might be met with something like: “Great! We have five new programs and 100 new members.” This is how we communicate a measured success. But an honest answer like: “Fifteen percent stopped coming because the cost of Christian discipleship was taught … those who remain are growing in their faith” would more accurately express a healthy measure of success.
AT ARROWHEAD Native Bible Center we desire, above all, to hold high the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the glory of our most Holy God. We’ve begun to measure our ministry differently.
No longer do we count and report the number of converts that we have the immense pleasure of seeing. Our hearts rend for the lost souls that we welcome to the Center, but the convicting and saving is a work of the Holy Spirit. We are called to disciple and to teach (Matthew 28:19-20). As Arrowhead manager, I am responsible to see that the Gospel is handled well and communicated adequately – a serious charge that I do not hold as trivial.
We cannot measure this ministry based on the number of converts. Delivering a new nature in redemption is a work of God. Of course there is great value to seeing numbers of people being saved, and we should rejoice and pray for that very thing. Scripture emphasizes numbers being added to the Church
(Acts 2:41, 4:4).
I CAN, HOWEVER, seek to ensure and measure two things:
- Was the Gospel clearly, consistently and accurately taught?
- Was the teaching clearly and accurately received?
These we can observe by the questions coming back from those exposed to Gospel teaching. We’ve found at Arrowhead that, when given the opportunity, our campers ask the most profound questions! This shows us what they are understanding, and what we need to further address from Scripture.
When people leave one of our conferences or summer camps, it is my responsibility to see that they have been taught, and taught well. Whether they decide to reject or invest in the Gospel is between them and God. I cannot force someone to understand the Gospel – God alone gives understanding (2 Tim. 2:7, Rom. 10:17, Eph. 2:8-9). I am commanded to give them an answer, and to do so with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
I THNK ABOUT A CERTAIN TEEN CAMPER. She said she didn’t believe in God and, following each chapel, would challenge our speaker. The truth of Scripture was creating a tension with the lies she had believed. Sad to say, she left camp holding firmly to her atheistic beliefs. We could not make her understand or force her to believe. We could only lovingly point her to God’s Word. “Some plant; some water, but God gives the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6-7).
With joy I can say that others have not resisted the Holy Spirit’s prompting. I cannot and should not try to coerce or manipulate anyone, lest I try to take on God’s role (1 Cor. 2:14). This can be tempting to do in our zeal to see people saved. But we can plead with and persist in the proclamation of God’s Word. That includes educating and equipping ourselves to communicate clearly. Teaching and discipleship are so much more than simply delivering information – it is striving to make the truth clearly understood!
IF I CAN ANSWER yes to these two questions, then I can be confident that I have been obedient to the call of God in the proclamation of the Gospel. Of course that by no means draws an end to my role as a discipler, but it is an appropriate measure of my calling. I don’t need observable results other than my submitted and sacrificial obedience. The rest is God’s work and I am meant to be content in that.
Obedient discipleship is never of ill effect. Tensions arise when people’s expectations supersede the expectations of Christ. If we have been overwhelmed by expectations of “measurable” results in our ministries, let’s be encouraged that to obediently disciple and teach to the greatest of our ability is the real measure of success. That ultimately makes God the object of our work!