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I recently finished listening to the whole series of podcasts on The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.

It has been a sobering podcast to listen to. I highly recommend for those who are in seminary or going to ministry full-time to listen to. It is a good reminder that we must be mindful of what we are building, which is rooted in Christ. If it is based on our ego, things will not last.

One thing that concerns me is that there is a need to be successful in the Christian community. And often, success comes down to a numbers game. The bigger the number, the better.

I had a similar thought a few years ago. How come we tend to measure success on numbers? Yet, in the Bible, success is often not about having a big number. Now, I understand in Acts when the Gospel was preached, and thousands were saved. There were a lot of numbers. But over and over again, Jesus emphasized not just quantity but quality.

For example, Jesus greatest teaching is the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Nowhere did He mention you are a good disciple because you saved many souls or have a great ministry. Instead, time and time again, Jesus emphasized the fruits that you are producing:

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

Matthew 7:15-20 (NKJV)

And these fruits were centred around His teachings, such as be meek (Matthew 5:5), don’t commit adultery (Matthew 5:27-30), love your enemies (Matthew 5:43-48), and choose the narrow path (Matthew 7:13-14). I can go on and on.

For me, the measurement of success should center around developing the Fruits of the Spirit:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 [g]gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Galatians 5:22-25 (NKJV)

For me, it ain’t about being big or small or doing it quickly or not. How we do it, or the spirit we are doing it from, is just as important, if not more important.

Despite bearing the fruits of the Spirit, Mark Driscoll built one of the fastest-growing churches. And many can rationalize and say, ‘Well, at least he did something great for God.’

That’s unacceptable because the Gospel emphasizes the spirit in which we do it, or how we do it is as important as how big we build it.

But there is this pressure. The need to be big and influential. The need to be driven. I can feel it, too. I remember there were times in order to build or maintain a ministry, I stopped looking at people as people. Instead, I looked at them as numbers to fill in what I needed to get done. Forget about the fruits of the Spirit; getting it done is way more important.

I regretted doing so. I wonder, can I do it better? Can I balance doing the work of the ministry and bearing the fruits of the Spirit? It is hard. Partly because none of us really value the fruits of the Spirit. This may sound harsh, and you may disagree.

Gentleness or kindness are fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23. But how often do you see a successful minister described as gentle or kind. Compare to dynamic, driven, love the Lord, game changer, etc. This includes myself as well. Do I aim to develop gentleness or kindness? If I say someone is a good Christian, do I measure them on these two characteristics?

More often than not, we are drawn to a person with charisma. One that can preach and work the crowd. I get it. I get why it works. But I also challenge myself: can I focus on developing these fruits and bear them regardless of what anyone thinks of me?

If there is one thing I take away from the podcast, it is that even myself is just as easily tempted by power. I want to double down on developing the fruits of the Spirit and do ministry through that.

I may not get thousands of followers or likes, but I desire to satisfy the audience of One (Jesus!)

Show me a man, an honest mission
I’m willing to hope beyond suspicion
Show me the race, I’ll run the distance
Longing to give and taste forgiveness
Dying to live a pure religion
Settle the rush to chase submission
Open my eyes and soul to listen

Sticks and Stones by Kings Kaleidoscope