The Marriage of Faithfulness and Effectiveness

Have you ever heard this line? “We are not called to be effective, we are called to be faithful.”

I disagree.

Faithfulness to God and effectiveness for the Kingdom cannot be separated; and that is a truth that we should find terrifying.

In the parable of the minas in Luke 19, the faithfulness of the servants is judged on the basis of their effectiveness.

“…(verse 20) Another came saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking what I did not sow? Then why did you not put my money in a bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest? Then he said to the bystanders, ‘Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas already.’ I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away…”

I used to think that faithfulness meant attending church services, tithing and following the rules/behaving morally. Now, I think that if that is the extent of my definition of faithfulness and therefore, my actions, that I am the “worthless slave.”

The problem with that view of faithfulness is that we serve a God who wants to acquire. He’s out for more.

The worthless slave actually had some correct beliefs about his master. Unfortunately, his beliefs lead him to fearing his master in such a way that he thought that the best thing to do with what the master had given him was to keep it safe. He took no risks with his mina and happily returned it in pristine condition.

I wonder how many churches are so focused on keeping the church “pure,” that they render themselves ineffective? The passed-down traditions are kept. The convictions of the faithful are respected. The focus is certainly on the holiness of God. After all, God will bring the people in to the church as long as he is honored. Right?

It seems to me that Jesus is making the point that the master (who seems to be Jesus himself in this parable) is honored by people taking what they have and investing it — always a seemingly risky endeavor — with the goal of acquiring more for the master while he is away. He does not seem to be impressed in the least, and is made quite angry, by the fact that the mina he had given had been returned to him safe-and-sound.

Does this not scare you? It scares me a lot. If it doesn’t scare you, then I hope it is because you are an outwardly focused, effective Christian who is part of an outwardly focused people-reaching evangelistic, relevant church.  But if you are comfortable thinking that your attendance and tithing and not sinning makes you “faithful,” then you need to be worried.

“Klint, surely you aren’t saying that those dying churches who have God-fearing members who are ‘fighting the good fight’ aren’t being faithful. That’s awfully judgmental, especially coming from someone so young.” 

We should not be nearly as concerned with being faithful to the church as we are concerned with  being faithful to the purpose of the church. Meeting 1-3 times a week (or every single day of the week for that matter) and does not equal being faithful. Being moral people does not equal being faithful. Investing in growing the kingdom, does; and, in the most scary part of all, results are expected.

Most Baptist churches are either stagnant or dying, but I bet every single congregation has been reassured at one point or another that it is being faithful. Faithful to what? Of course we need to be faithful to the message of what the gospel is. But that is not enough because part of the gospel message is that it is for all people and we must be the kind of people who will actually go and love all people. I’m afraid that faithfulness to preferences is trumping faithfulness to kingdom-advancing.

I have never been to a church that was outwardly focused, mission-oriented and willing to set preferences aside (i.e. sacrificial) for the sake of reaching people that wasn’t growing, much less dying. Maybe that’s just my experience, but if the early New Testament church grew in a period of time where believers were literally dragged away and killed, then I really don’t think we can blame our culture or the world out there if we are failing to advance Kingdom.

The time has come to not only put preferences aside, but to put excuses aside and give ourselves an honest evaluation. Read Luke 19 for yourself and judge what I am saying. Which servant are you?