A friend recently asked, “What are some fruits you’ve seen in ministry the past years?” This question made me reflect, not just on specific fruits from the work here in L’viv, but on an overall question:
“What is fruit?”
My first human response was to compile a list of numbers, much like a sales report. And because I have some experience with grant writing, I’m familiar with the need to quantify outcomes. After all, people and churches are investing their hard earned money in this ministry. They want to know that it’s doing some good.
Josh and I recognize the value in numbers: more people coming to Christ, more families established, more disciples made, and so on. There’s nothing wrong with missionaries or funders recognizing fruit in the form of numbers. The Bible itself tells us that Jesus fed 5,000 people with one small boy’s lunch and that Peter’s sermon at Pentecost led 3,000 people to salvation.
But as we thought about this question, we were also convicted to be more intentionally aware of the personal, less quantifiable fruits. A life dramatically changed by salvation, a young believer growing in maturity, a family pressing forward to save their marriage or raise their children Biblically, against the flow of society.
Why is this so crucial?
Partially because there are times when ministry doesn’t bring huge quantifiable fruits. Maybe hundreds or thousands are not being saved. Maybe the church is not weekly adding members. Maybe an evangelistic event doesn’t attract throngs of spiritually hungry people. Does that mean the ministry is failing?
Not necessarily. Sure, we ought to pray and ask the Lord if He’s leading us in a different direction. We should consider whether we need to change an approach or if God might even be closing a door entirely.
But if we pray about these things and God says, “Continue,” we should remember that smaller numbers does not equal ministry failure. God alone knows the hearts of people and when they are ready to respond to Him. We may invest time, energy, money, and our hearts for years and not see gigantic numbers.
If all we look for are the numbers, we might miss the fruits that are before us. Those individual lives being transformed by the grace of God. And in an effort to reach the many, we might neglect the few who are ready and waiting.
And most importantly, focusing on quantifiable fruits may shift our focus off of Christ Himself. At the end of the day, God is more concerned with how we are walking with Him, rather than what we are doing for Him.
“Beware of any work for God that causes or allows you to avoid concentrating on Him. A great number of Christian workers worship their work. The only concern of Christian workers should be their concentration on God.”