A British journalist once asked Mother Teresa how she kept going, knowing that she could never meet the needs of all the dying in the streets of Calcutta. Her answer, “I am not called to be successful; I’m called to be faithful.” Sometimes in the church in our Western culture I am not sure we recognize the difference. After all, look at the metrics whereby we measure church success: attendance, conversion, baptisms, confirmations, tithing measures, etc. All of these metrics seemed to be based on our success…and not necessarily our faithfulness. So I guess we have to ask ourselves how do we measure faithfulness.
Faithfulness is defined as ‘loyal, constant, and steadfast’ and in no way do any of these things indicate production. Production is something that requires toil and sweat. It is focused on the end goal and the results. In no way is it focused on the efforts made except to maybe to make the process more efficient in order to get results faster. But words like constant, steadfast…these don’t sound very efficient. So maybe, we don’t look at results metrics, but rather constancy metrics. Maybe we start to look at the lay-person who goes around mowing people’s yards without praise or compensation and who often flies under the radar. Maybe we start to look at the pastor who has served small congregations faithfully throughout the years but has never attracted too much attention otherwise. Maybe we start to look at the inner-city mission director whose efforts usually result in seeing the same ‘clients’ come through having failed yet again.
1 Corinthians 3:5-7 has another take on faithfulness altogether. ‘What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.’ As a pastor I have always had trouble with this. What if people don’t respond to my message? What if I am not seeing my group grow? And then I started looking at my questions a little more. My? I? When did this become about me? I am simply called to shine the light on Jesus in a dark world. If I am doing my job faithfully, then God will be faithful. The results do not rely on me…they are dependant on God alone.
SO my question remains…are you worried about success or being faithful? Are you shining the light on Jesus or is the spotlight on your ‘efforts’ and your ‘results’? I am not sure about you but I want to hear, ‘Good job. You were a good and faithful servant’. I just can’t imagine hearing, ‘Way to go you. You were more concerned with your successes than mine’. May we re-examine our motivations in light of all of this.