I’m proud to admit that blue blood flows through my veins. No, this is not a claim to be of royal descent, but that I’m a fan of Kentucky basketball. Having said that, you may be thinking something like this: “Didn’t the coach of your beloved team just leave for another school? Wasn’t he a successful coach by most standards?” Yes, those allegations are true. But Kentucky is not alone in demanding results from their coaches. In almost all of sports, it’s not enough that a coach be a person of integrity. Results (i.e. winning) is what it’s all about.
I see churches that apparently operate by a similar philosophy. In these, it’s not wins but numbers that are the focus. If attendance figures don’t climb according to the expectations of those in power, then it must be time for a change. The preacher may preach the truth and preach it well. But where are the people? Let’s find someone who can fill the pews.
The New Testament puts emphasis on numerical growth. The church began with a numerical explosion: 3,000 were baptized after hearing the first gospel sermon preached (Acts 2:41, NKJV). Large numbers continued to be converted in the early days of the church. There was nothing wrong with that phenomenon.
Let us keep clearly in focus, however, that this growth occurred as God’s plan was followed. No short cuts were taken. No truths were suppressed or compromised. The church grew even as preachers risked making people angry by preaching the unbending truth of God.
Paul displayed his credentials in 1 Thessalonians 2:4: “But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.” Paul knew the source of the message he preached. The gospel was from God; it was not a man-made scheme that could be recast to accommodate current trends. He also knew that God constantly watched his work in preaching. He didn’t say that God “will” test our hearts, but used a present tense verb.
There were some in that era who took a different approach. John spoke of some Jewish rulers who believed in Jesus, but didn’t want that to be known. They were motivated by “the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). These rulers had certain results on their minds, and they were willing to do whatever it took to accomplish them.
It’s not wrong to want to see results — if the results are God-approved, and if we use approved means to reach them. But priority number one is to please God. May we never lose sight of that result!
“Proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, exhort, with the utmost patience in teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2, NRSV).
Do results drive us to do what we do?