Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Idolatry of Effectiveness

Faithfulness is more to be valued and sought after than effectiveness.

If it is otherwise one will forfeit faithfulness in pursuit of ever newer and "more effective" means.

John G. Paton lived out the truth that faithfulness is more to be valued than effectiveness. After serving for years on the front lines of missions, after losing his wife and child on the mission field, after repeatedly catching the same illness which killed his wife, and after multiple years of apparent ineffectiveness in ministry Paton refused to give up. He labored faithfully for years and years, enduring much hardship and tremendous difficulties when effectiveness in ministry was only a distant hope.

This makes one wonder how many mission agencies would have given up on Paton and withdrew their support because of his apparent ineffectiveness. Yet Paton was steadfast, believing when nearly everything around him was engaged in intense opposition to belief. Paton, like Abraham believed God when there was no earthly reason to believe Him - this is faith.

The Scriptures teach that faith, belief, and trust are highly esteemed by the Lord. When man recognizes his complete inability without God and then leans whole heartedly into Him, who can do that which we we could never do, then faith is involved. And it is precisely faith which pleases Him.

It is interesting to note that Jesus did not call us to effectiveness, rather He has called us to faithfulness and to obedience. Paul is very helpful in this regard, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth." (1 Cor. 3:6-7).

As it turned out, Paton did eventually experience great effectiveness later in his life on the mission field. Yet I do not think that this is what most pleased the Lord, rather it seems that the Lord was most pleased with Paton's faith in Him. John G. Paton's faith in the Lord worked itself out in faithful and diligent service to Him in spite of an apparent lack of effectiveness.

In contrast, how plentiful are the examples in America of apparent effectiveness, of multitudes crowding into over sized buildings called churches. Yet it is clear that it is not effectiveness that is most pleasing in God's sight for it is not written in the Scriptures, "Without effectiveness it is impossible to please Him." Rather it is written, "Without faith it is impossible to please Him." (Heb. 11:6).

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