The Success in “Failing”

I sometimes feel bad for missionaries who come back from oversees and are overwhelmed with the pressure to give glowing reports of “effective” ministry and the “production” of new disciples.

In our Americanized framework of assembly lines and processes fostering instantaneous results, we seem to forget Jesus’ words about His Kingdom:

26… “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4)

And as there is rich eschatological meaning in these verses, it once again reminds us of this: We can only do so much. Some results are simply out of our control. There is a clock we can’t manage, and this process will take “night and day”…night and day…night and day…before we ever see any concrete results.

May we one day applaud the missionary who boldly claims their hard work is having little results (at least seen)…To congratulate the ever-working, church planter who unashamedly falls short of her monthly “growth-quota”…And to simply praise God in knowing His power is in action aside from any human contribution or human “success-scale.”


~ by Dave Smith on January 20, 2009.

7 Responses to “The Success in “Failing””

  1. Is this post about you and your experience as a pastor at a megachurch or “missionaries”? May we one day applaud the church who boldly claims their hard work is having little results…

  2. Moreso “missionaries” who I think feel they need to dress up their reports with fear of losing some support if it sounds like there isn’t any real growth.

    I also think the timelines on church plants can be a little hard core sometimes. (balance is definitely needed here)

    When it comes to my environment, I tend to ride things hard when it comes to goal setting and accomplishing those goals. But those goals are more about the working of the soil and the sowing of the seed (where we have responsibility)…not necessarily the harvest (which is out of our control).

    I guess I would also say that with the transition we are going through, some fallout is expected, and while changes are occurring… the results will take time, which sometimes we lose sight of. (at least I know I do)

  3. I concur. A farmer is helpless to grow grain. All he can do is provide the right conditions for the growing of grain. He cultivates the soil, he plants the seed, he waters the plants, and then natural forces of the earth take over and up comes grain. This is how we expand the kingdom of God, whether we are “missionaries” here ar abroad.

  4. P. S. I want spell check on this blog 😉

  5. It really boils down to whether we believe that we are part of something *God* is doing, or something *we* are doing.

    If I serve in the spirit, I believe God is sovereign, and I’m just a spectator to what He is doing in people’s lives. Pretty exciting, even when the numbers aren’t what we imagined they might be!

    If (when) I serve in the flesh, I think that I am somehow responsible for the results of my work. I begin to work harder and longer, ignoring my calling as a husband and father. I must do all I can…because I believe it’s all up to me. And when the results don’t come in, I’m embarrassed.

    I’m praying for all of us reading and writing on this blog, that we’ll remember more often that God is sovereign and the fruit that we enjoy is a result of his blessing and not our own work or brilliance.

  6. Thanks, Rich. Of course, we all have to agree with you because you brought up “God” being “sovereign.” The problem is that playing the “God” card in a blog kind of kills the conversation, don’t you think? But, maybe I’m just frustrated because I am snowed in and you’re not 😉

  7. Yea, its hard to even see Barrett’s little picture with him standing on the beach after I just shoveled a foot of snow. Can’t you at least photoshop some snowflakes in the background to make us feel a little better about ourselves!

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