I live my life sandwiched between two tensions. I want to be found faithful while at the same time, I want to be found fruitful.
As a pastor, I struggle with numbers. I watch the graphs of our attendance and chart the ups and downs of our giving. I know that people pass judgment on me based on those figures. People look at those numbers and determine my worth.
However, I know that my success is not measured by numbers. The artificial measuring sticks—bodies, budgets, buildings, baptisms, books, broadcasts, and blogs—are valuable indicators, yes, but they are not what God will use to evaluate and determine whether or not I am successful.
God will not evaluate my ministry based on the size. He will evaluate whether or not I was faithful. “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the master does not praise his servants based on their production. The one with the five talents received the same reward as the one with the two talents. Both were faithful in using their talents for the master and heard, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21, 23).
People may judge my success or failure based on numbers and size, but God will evaluate whether or not I was faithful to use the gifts and abilities he has given me for his service. I get that.
And yet, at the same time, I want to be fruitful. In John 15:1-11, Jesus speaks of the progression of moving from no fruit to fruit to more fruit to much fruit. In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23; Mark 4:1-20), some of the seed produces thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, and some hundredfold.
I desire to produce much fruit. I want to be one who produces hundredfold. While that may be my desire, I recognize that I cannot produce anything in my own power. Much fruit only comes as I abide in Christ and his life flows through me. God is the one who produces the size of the harvest.
This brings me back full circle to faithfulness. I must be faithful to abide in Christ and depend on him for life, growth, and fruitful ministry. I must rely on him to determine how, when, and where he will use me. I must be faithful to use everything I have for his glory. I must focus on depth—building deeply into my life and the life of others—and allow him to determine the breadth and effectiveness of my ministry.
May I be found faithful and fruitful. The one is up to me. The other is up to God. I need to live contentedly between those two tensions.