Monday, March 27

9 out of 10 things we attempt don't bear fruit

The other day a fellow missionary commented to the effect that our Guayaquil church planting efforts seemd to be going so much better than their own. The comment caught me totally off guard. Do they not know that 9 out of every 10 things we attempt in the work don't bear fruit? In our own eyes we are scratching and struggling everyday. We are at a loss most of the time to get a handle on the overwhelming lostness around us. How are we supposed to reach the 3.3 million people in our province for Jesus?

It is easy to become disillusioned with it all. So much of our effort seemingly goes for naught. We have many more failures to show than successes. Disappointments far outnumber the success stories.

Last night is typical. I spent the evening at one of our Baptist churches who had invited me to share about our COSECHA (Harvest) church planting materials. My understanding was that the church was eager to implement the plan to reach their community for Christ (why else would they have invited me to share the materials?) After an exciting, interactive evening with people pumped up and ready to get on board with the vision, I turned the service back over to the pastor. He thanked me for coming out and wished us the best and from there went on with the weeks announcements and the meeting ended. We were just another Sunday night service! I drove home upset and disappointed. It didn't help matters to drive by a large open air AOG church packed to the hilt. Instead of rejoicing over the multitudes they are winning to Christ, all I could think about was how we had been turned down, how sad, lonely and confused I was feeling.

It is frustrating to spend months training a group of believers to go out and make disciples and plant new churches only to see nothing come of the effort. How many times have we poured ourselves into a project that was supposed to make a major impact for the cause of Christ, only to honestly evaluate and realize it accomplished very little? How many hours I have poured myself into individuals with little to show for the investment into their lives?

I hate to count the times we have prayed, invested time and money, expended vast amounts of spiritual and emotional energy, but when all the dust settles at the end of the day there is little to show for all the effort. Church plants begun in a burst of excitement and glory dissolve after a few short weeks without much of a reason. People we thought won to Christ just melt back into the multitudes. What on earth is going on?!?!

Where is the promised victory? The spiritual fruit that remains? Why is there so little to show for all our effort and sacrifice? Why does everyone else seem to be getting the job done and we are still trying to figure out what it is we are supposed to be doing? Why do 9 out of 10 things we attempt come to no avail?

Oh yeah, we are good about putting on a good public face about all we are doing and the "great things" happening out there (the 1 out of 10)... But in our prayer closet we sit stupefied before the Lord asking those painful questions: What happened? Where did we blow it? Why weren't you able to bless this, Lord? What am I doing wrong? Where's that abundant fruit promised in John 15?

I wish I could now turn the page and write a spiritually satisfying response. Something to give a nice spiritual perspective to the above frustrations (I'm sure 9 out of 10 reading this could!)

After sitting here a long time thinking on these things, the only consolation I can come up with is that which Paul tried to explain when he wrote the Corinthians, "while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Cor.4:18)

We simply have to trust God on all these matters. It really is a faith journey. That which is "seen" is not real. That which is "not seen" is real. We just need to keep on keeping on...

Somewhere in the mystery of God's ways, His will is being accomplished through our lives. It is not up to us to judge or question God's ways with us. We tend to measure ourselves by the world's standards of success--yes, even missionaries to do this!--but He clearly states,

"My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it." (Is.55:8-11)

So what if 9 out of 10 things we attempt don't bear fruit according to our good intentioned plans? God is at work accomplishing what HE DESIRES. Our part is to be happy knowing that we are allowed to even play a small part in this mysterious drama of the ages. He is faithful to bring about his purposes in his own good time and pleasure.

God is God. Enough said.

4 comments:

A 10-40 Window worker said...

Guy,

Thank you for so concisely articulating what we experience on a daily basis. We here KNOW there is a way to reach a lost population that has less than 10 national believers. We contine to seek to know where God is leading us. Thus far, over 200 workers from a plethora of agencies and non-agency workers, have seen no fruit.

We have not thrown in the towel, but it is discouraging at times. But, when we occasionally meet with as many of the workers as possible, we pray with one heart to see what God sees and work accordingly.

We are not sitting and waiting for a miraculous vision. We all continue to try old and new strategies, knowing God has a plan, we just do not know what it is, yet.

Anonymous said...

Guy,

I find comfort somehow in knowing that my efforts are not in vain. One day, I will stand before an all knowing, just God and give an account for the opportunities that I saw, and acted upon, as well as those that I let slip by. He will say to me "well done" if I have been faithful or my works will burn away like wheat chaff in a fire, and I will be standing there with nothing to show.

He will also judge the ones with which you shared. The ones that just made a decision to follow Christ, but did not follow through with that verbal decision to a new life. He will say, "I sent my servant Guy to share with you, and you didn't listen" Because God is just, I believe that his judgment will be a little more strict. one may ask, "where's the comfort in this?" For me, it means that God shows off His character as being just.

He is a God of love, deep love. He is also a God of justice. Our job is to bear witness, the Holy Spirit has the responsibility to draw them to people unto Himself. Be encocuraged my brother, your work is not in vain.

RMc said...

You aren't the only one struggling with the same questions / feelings. I deal with them on a fairly regular basis myself! I'm in the 1 of 10 category you were talking about, not the 9....

And like someone said, "God is God, and I am not." And that is a good thing.

GuyMuse said...

10-40 worker, Anon, rmc,

Thanks people for the good words. Each of you has helped to encourage this M and appreciate your insights. If you get a chance see "part 2" to this post above which is a little brighter in outlook!