We might be tempted to view churches with big attendance figures or large membership registers as successful. After all, they must be doing something right? Very often it’s the mega-church pastors that get asked to speak at conferences on church-growth and whose services are recorded for TBN. Mega-churrch pastors often write books that share their “secret” with the rest of us mediocre pastors.
Mega-churches may be very successful, but they also may not be.
When God called and commissioned Isaiah, God gave him this message, “”Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10)
God told Isaiah, who could well have been a budding young church-planter, to preach his message about the coming judgment of God, but the people would not listen, not hear, and not believe. It would be a very slow and unfruitful ministry. It would be a pain-stacking and frustrating ministry.
Was Isaiah successful? I would argue yes. Isaiah’s book is in the Bible (no small feat!) , it is the second most quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament, and the vision that Isaiah paints for us in his book is one of the most vivid, grand, and majestic prophecies in the Bible. Yet Isaiah ministry was met with relatively little success.
Faithfulness, not numbers, an indicator of success
This is why numbers and popularity is never an indicator of success. You can be 100% in line with God’s purposes, but not that popular and not have a big church. Faithfulness to God is the measure of success. Isaiah never strayed from the message God gave him, although I’m sure he must have been tempted to in order to grow his audience and ministry.
The same is true for our evangelism. Many times we share the gospel with our friends, but they reject our message and do not believe it. But that’s ok! We are simply called to be faithful to the message God has given us, like Isaiah; the results are in God’s hands. We might also be tempted to change or water-down the gospel in order to make it more acceptable and grow our “ministry”. Tradition says that Isaiah was ultimately killed (sawn in two) for his unpopular message! He didn’t change or water down his message. He was simply faithful. He did what he could do and left the results to God.