Last week, West Main Baptist and the other churches in the Alexandria/Dowelltown/Liberty cluster of the Salem Baptist Association came together for an evangelistic rally. We had it in the open air grandstands of our fairground, giving it that old tent revival feel. Our expressed goal was to preach the gospel so that people would turn to Christ for salvation from the wrath of God our sin deserves.
We worked for months on this event, put together an ample budget, advertised it widely, challenged our church members to bring people to the rally, brought in a faithful and passionate evangelist and an anointed, gifted worship leader, and prayed heartily that many would be saved. However, at the end of the four-night rally, nobody was saved.
The question that has been bouncing around in my mind and spirit is: was our rally a success?
Do you ever wonder about such things? You share the gospel faithfully, but nobody gets saved. Does it ever cross your mind as to whether or not your evangelism is a success or a failure?
The answer to whether or not our evangelistic rally was a success depends on how we define success. We often define success in church ministry by attendance and conversions. I’m often tempted to do the same thing, but is that how God defines success? Is the church that has 1,000 in attendance more successful in God’s eyes than the one who has 100? Is the church that baptizes 100 more successful than the church that baptizes 10? They may be more successful in God’s eyes, but if so, it’s not because of their numbers.
You see, that’s how the world and our flesh define success, but God does not define success by numbers and conversions. God defines success by faithfulness to serve Him. How do I know? I know because two slaves with different results get the same praise in the Parable of the Talents.
That parable is found in Matthew 25:14-30. There Jesus illustrates for us a truth about the kingdom of heaven by saying that the kingdom of heaven is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey (Mt 25:14-15). A talent was a denomination of money worth about fifteen years’ wages for your common laborer in Jesus day, which is about $375,000 in today’s money. The first who was given five talents faithfully went to work for his master and came back with ten talents. The second who was given two talents faithfully went to work for his master and came back with four talents. The final one who was given one talent was unfaithful to work for his master and buried the talent.
When the master returned, he called his slaves together to see how they had worked for him. The first brought his ten talents, and the master tells him in Matthew 25:21, Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master. Now, if God measures success by numbers, then we should expect the second slave to get lesser praise because he returned with lesser talents, but that’s not the case. Instead, we see in Matthew 25:23 that he received the exact same praise, Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.
The one who brought back ten and the one who brought back four received the same praise because God measures success by faithfulness to work for Him and not numbers.
This truth is driven home when the master addresses the final slave who did not work for the master. He becomes the foil of the story. This slave lost nothing because he did nothing. He was unfaithful to work for His master, and of this slave, the master said, Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, (Mt 25:30). It was laziness and unfaithfulness to work for the master that brought him this condemnation.
So, success according to this scriptural principle is not about attendance and conversions. It’s about faithfulness.
How many converts outside his family did Noah in the book of Genesis have before the flood? None. How many converts did the Englishman William Carey, the father of modern missions, have in his first seven years in India? None. Would we call Noah and William failures? Absolutely not! They were successes because they were faithful to warn people of the impending judgment and call people to repentance. That’s our job too, and we are successful when we do exactly that.
With all of I’ve said, I declare our rally a success because we were faithful to do everything that God has called us to do. We invited everybody we could. We covered the entire thing in prayer. We preached the gospel clearly and passionately. We begged the lost to turn from their sin and trust Christ. We gave them ample opportunity to respond during the services and after the services. In the end, we did everything that God has called us to do and were successful!
That’s the measure of success in your evangelism too. Did you do everything that God has called you to do? If so, then you are a success, and God says, “Well done, good and faithful slave.”
We must always keep in mind that the results are not our job. The results are up to God. We sow the seeds. He brings the increase and the harvest. Nevertheless, I pray that He brings harvest quickly!