The Measure of Success
“I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:23
You have probably heard the African proverb, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Maybe you’ve heard it too often. Even if that is the case, I think we all know that there is truth in these words. It is a countercultural truth — we know that these words have truth, yet we also know from our experience that other people sometimes just slow things down, we can get more done if we just do it ourselves.
This same conviction often floods over into how we view and live out our lives as followers of Jesus. I have had more than one person say to me, “Doug, I know you believe that doing life as part of a group, meeting regularly, praying and doing ministry together is the best approach, but if I’m are really going to make a difference in this world, I can get more done, faster, on my own.” That might be true — in the short term. That might be true — if the measure is what we get done.
Let me suggest that while words like “faster” and “more efficient” have their place in a life of following Jesus, but they are not meant to be the leading or directing principles. These words need to be viewed with some suspicion. To not do so is to misunderstand the countercultural upside down Kingdom of God. Our culture — the world’s kingdom — will tell us that the measure of success is how much we get done. Jesus’ message is far less quantifiable, far more mixed and organic. Jesus uses words and phrases like rest, don’t worry, be content, yet he fuses them with an urgency that tells us to get up and do something while we can. Jesus is interested in process as much as he is results. Jesus is interested in modeling dependence upon him far more than he is interested in what we might think of as measurable success. At the same time, Jesus believes that we can have a far greater impact than we do. How do we balance these seemingly incompatible ideas?
As we move into the places and spaces, the dark and the broken, the places where God invites us to bring light and healing, we must avoid the temptation to be obsessed with the arrival, completion or end. God has called you and me to a journey, with him, to learn from him and to do the things that he shows us. To seek him, to trust in him, to depend upon him and then to be moving outward in his love toward the world. It is an amazing opportunity, the beauty of which will be missed if you choose speed over companionship.
Are you intent to travel alone? Think this week about who your spiritual companions are. If you do not have any, think of who they might be. Are you in a Small Group? Consider joining one. Are you meeting with someone regularly to share life with? Consider asking someone. If you want to go far, you must go together.
Peace, hope and love