The most important thing – Results?

by Jim on 9 October 2006

When it comes to serving the Lord, what’s do we need to concentrate on the most?  This post is the second in a series – read the introduction here.

So are results the most important thing?  From my perspective, this aspect of ministry has suffered over the years from both overemphasis and more often underemphasis.  Most of the time it seems it’s been almost taboo to focus on results of ministry.  You know, the dreaded “number-counting“, for example.  And I won’t deny, results is on the bottom of my list in order of importance.  But that doesn’t mean they’re not important – they are.

We know that results are important to God.  After all, He sent His Son to get results.  He loved us so much He wanted us to be saved into a relationship of love with Him.  There’s no doubt that He planned history with the end in mind.

But as believers we can’t put results first on the list.  If that was the case, the end would justify the means.  In other words, we’d tend toward shallow methods and shallow results, because our focus would be more on the visual.

We would also struggle with different attitudes, depending on how good our results were.  If we had poor results, that would lead to a feeling of helplessness and despair – we did all we could, and it was all for nothing.  If we have good results, overemphasis would lead to pride.  Look where our brilliant plans and strategies brought us!  No, results are important, but not that important.  Not from our perspective.

Underemphasis of results can cause problems too, however.  I don’t know about you, but I always heard stories of the poor missionary who faithfully handed out tracts for 40 years with no converts.  Only after he’s gone are there any visible results from his ministry.  The moral?  God wants us to serve Him faithfully, results or no results.

Sure, that’s true.  And we’ll get to that in another post.  But the story ignores how helpful results can be as a signpost in our service.  Good results do not “prove” that what we’re doing is right (after all, look how many people flock to churches that don’t teach the Word of God!).  And bad results don’t “prove” that what we’re doing is wrong.  But it may give an indication.

At one point in His ministry, Jesus had a strategy for His disciples.  He sent His disciples to a city, and told them that if they weren’t listened to they should move on (see Matt 10:14).  This is an example of how results can be used to help us strategize.  If we’re not seeing fruit, we should take a good look at what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.  It may be we need to continue the same way in spite of “visible” results.  But God also may be showing us that there’s a better way.  It’s not wrong to evaluate what we’re doing, as long as we evaluate it under God’s direction (more on this next time).  Bad results may be a warning that something more important in our lives is lacking, as we’ll see.

In Matthew 5:16, Jesus says,”Let your light so shine before men”.  Why?  “that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  That’s results.  Not always visible, not always something you can count, but certainly important.  Then again, when it comes to planning our service to the Lord, it’s not the most important thing…


Here’s an example of people struggling with the results issue (specifically numbers, which is only part of results of course), in a recent post entitled Working together is slower than working alone


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill Lurwick February 5, 2007 at 10:12 pm

Jim;

Stumbled upon your blog via http://www.missionary-blogs.com.

Enjoying the series of articles on the most important thing.

This is something that I personally have struggle with on a few short term trips I have been on as a member and also as a team leader. I feel that the ‘success’ that is so often pushed in the form of ‘conversions’ at the expense of discipleship is a result of flawed theology and mans need to be in charge. It is obviously not the most important thing, large numbers of new believers, in my opinion, but raising up an army of committe, discipled believers, who are the seed sown in the good ground.

Recently, in the last 6 months, I have been studying with my pastor and several other strong committed men, to being obedient to God. At whatever cost, so that He might be glorified. If it means glorifying God in my terminal cancer, then so be it. (I don’t have cancer, yet, just using that as an example).

If being obedient means leaving house and family and home, or leaving a mission field I have invested 40 years in with no converts, then so be it.

God is looking for men who will love Him in this way more than anything else in my opinion. I could be wrong. But this is what I am learning.

Thanks for your post, e-mail me with any comments. bill@kjil.com

Jim February 6, 2007 at 8:46 pm

Thanks for commenting – I now have a lot of motivation to finish the series! 🙂

I don’t think there’s much that you said there that I can argue with. I think the rest of the series will only confirm what you’re saying.

You bring up a good point about the pressure to win “converts”. It’s just that they’re so easy to measure (as long as you don’t worry about whether they are “true” converts or not). But real life is a little more messy than that, isn’t it? Victories, defeats, conflict and sorrow and joy are all a part of reaching people with God’s love.

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