I recently had an excellent conversation with a missionary who serves in a country that is almost entirely Muslim. We talked about the growth of the Church in that country and the power of the Gospel. It was an excellent conversation and one that inspired me. But he said something that really shook me. He told me about missionaries who had served before him for nearly twenty years and had seen almost no results. No one accepted the Gospel in twenty years! In our results driven, microwave society they were epic failures. In God’s eyes, I believe they did exactly what they were called to do.
In our discussion, it became clear to me that much of the current growth of the church in that country came BECAUSE of those who had gone before. They had tilled the soil and planted a seed, a new generation of missionaries was watering it, but God was making it grow.
Did you know that the average tenure of an American pastor is four years? Did you also know that pastors see the greatest success between years five and fifteen?** We give up just before it gets good. What would the American church look like if people were willing to serve faithfully for twenty years?
I’m learning that while “reaching people for Christ” is a noble goal, it cannot be the ultimate goal. Doing what God has called me to do has to be the thing that drives me. It has to be. Sometimes, that will mean laboring and sweating and seeing no immediate results. But if Jesus calls me to labor and sweat, I have to trust that He knows what he is doing.
The purpose of this post is two-fold. First, I want to say thank you to those who have served faithfully for so long. It’s on your shoulders that we’re seeing a great harvest today. Secondly, I want to encourage those of you not to seek results, but seek Jesus. I want to encourage you to go big, even when it doesn’t count. Check out these words in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV) about not focusing on temporal, visible results but on something more.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
In the comment section below, sound off about someone you’re thankful for who served faithfully in your life or before you, even when it was painstaking.
**According to Healthy Church Network. I’m working to verify those statistics.