Isaiah 2:1-22; 2 Corinthians 10:13-18; Psalms 53:1-5; Proverbs 15:15-17
NT: “We, however, will not boast beyond measure but according to the measure of the area of ministry that God has assigned to us, which reaches even to you. For we are not overextending ourselves, as if we had not reached you, since we have come to you with the gospel of Christ. We are not boasting beyond measure about other people’s labors. On the contrary, we have the hope that as your faith increases, our area of ministry will be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel to the regions beyond you without boasting about what has already been done in someone else’s area of ministry. So let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. For it is not the one commending himself who is approved, but the one the Lord commends.” (2 Corinthians 10:13-18 CSB)
Measuring your effectiveness and the subsequent determination of the success or failure of your efforts is an important endeavor. Almost more important than the actual measuring itself is the means and standards by which you measure. If you measure using the wrong standards, you may think that you are a success, when you are actually a failure. There were some people in the Corinthian church who had determined their own standards of success… and of course those standards were based on things that they had already done. So, based on their own system of measurement, they were superstars while people like Paul were measured to be failures.
One measure that churches use to evaluate their effectiveness is numbers: how many members do we have, how much money have we raised, how many “conversions” and baptisms have we had. While those are good statistics to measure, they do not always indicate success in ministry. Instead defending his effectives in ministry, Paul listed the standards that he used (and that we should use) to determine success or failure.
First of all, since God is the one who called Paul into ministry and is the one who has called all of us into a certain level of ministry, the standards to measure effectiveness shouldn’t come from us – but should be based on what God has actually called us to do. Paul said that his measures would be based on the area of ministry that God had actually assigned to him. All of us, Paul included, have a primary assignment: to see souls saved and disciples made. A person raising his or her hand after an invitation for salvation has been given… or a person coming down the aisle after an alter call is not an indicator that the person has actually placed their faith on Christ and proclaimed Him as Lord. It is also not an indicator that the person has become a disciple. That is where tallies of membership and “conversions” fall short. What God is after are sincere salvations that lead to true disciples. Most of the time, our effectiveness can not be measured instantaneously. It will take time for us to see if our ministry has actually been effective in seeing souls truly saved and made into mature disciples.
God has also given all of us a sphere of influence to minister to. How well are we ministering to our sphere of influence – those people who are in our lives: our family members, our neighbors across the street, our co-workers, etc? Many times we want to escape the responsibility of ministering to our sphere of influence, and go instead to someplace where we aren’t known. In our church, we teach a concept that we call prophetic assignment. Prophetic assignment is being in the right place, at the right time, with the right people, doing the right things. How well are we living by prophetic assignment and actually doing the primary things that our Lord has commissioned us to do? Our effectiveness and success should be measured on those things. In doing that, we also need to make sure we are not taking credit for what someone else has done, but evaluating how faithful we are actually being at the task that we have been assigned.
Another measure of effectiveness is if God is actually glorified through our efforts. We should not be doing things to glorify ourselves. We should not be seeking praise and accolades. In everything that we do, the objective should be to glorify God. Paul quoted Jeremiah 9:24: “But the one who boasts should boast in this: that he understand and knows Me – that I am the Lord…” We don’t minister to people to grow our name and to build our kingdom – we minister to people to glorify God’s name and increase His kingdom.
The final measure that Paul mentions is this: Does the Lord actually approve of our work and commend what we are doing? What good is it to pat ourselves on the back and tell everyone what a great job we have done if the Lord doesn’t actually approve of what we have done or how we have done it? Are we actually doing what the Lord has called us to do? Are we actually going to the people whom the Lord has called us to minister to? Are we glorifying the Lord’s name and reputation instead of promoting ourselves? If we can truthfully answer yes to those questions, then there is a good likelihood that God would say to us, “well done, good and faithful servant.” Otherwise, we may be putting out a lot of effort, but not doing anything of value for the kingdom of God.
Prayer: Lord, I know that it is good for me to have a sense of how effective I am being in the things that You have called me to do – but it is important that I measure my effectiveness by Your standards, not my own. Help me to access myself honestly according to Your standards and be willing to change what I am doing when correction is needed. Ultimately, I want to be found faithful in the things you have asked of me and I want to glorify You in all that I do. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.