I love stats, I love scripture and I love classic writers.
My love for stats is an occupational hazard. I’ve been in marketing for almost three decades and I because I’m an over-thinker by nature, reading statistics, benchmarks, measuring results and analyzing the successful of creative campaigns fascinates me. (Yes, I’m a geek.)
My love for scripture is rooted in my relationship with Christ. I feel off kilter if my day isn’t started in the Word and that one-on-one time with Him. Every day I bring 3 particular passages with me to work and they are;
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. ~ Colossians 3:23
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. ~ John 15:16
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. ~ Matthew 28:19
My love for classic writers began when I was introduced to some amazing devotionals by the likes of C.S. Lewis, Thomas Merton, Frederick Buechner, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Recently, I ran across a passage entitled ‘Fruits that Grow in Vulnerability’ in Bread for the Journey
, a wonderful devotional by Henri Nowen. I took a screenshot to share it with a friend later, so I had this photo on my phone and kept finding myself going back to re-read it. It felt like one of those nudges we get from God. You know what I mean, when you read or hear something that you just can’t shake. It keeps coming up and finally its like this bright light shines on it and you go… “Ohhhh, now I get it God!”
Let me share it with you:
“There is a great difference between successfulness and fruitfulness. Success comes from strength, control, and respectability. A successful person has the energy to create something, to keep control over its development and to make it available in large quantities. Success brings many rewards and often fame. Fruits, however, come from weakness and vulnerability. And fruits are unique. A child is the fruit conceived in vulnerability, community is the fruit born through shared brokenness, and intimacy is the fruit that grows through touching one another’s wounds. Let’s remind one another what brings us true joy is not successfulness but fruitfulness.”
In our ministries, we often focus on the numbers, or the stats, to determine whether or not there is success. We measure registration submissions, service attendance, volunteer signups, website traffic, social media engagement, dollars collected… we look to figures, not fruits, to determine the successfulness of our labors.
And there’s nothing wrong with success. God wants us to be successful. He’s tasked us with the Great Commission and supplied each of us with our own unique and special gifts to make that happen.
Going back to the passage by Nouwen, this line really stood out for me; a successful person has the energy to create something, to keep control over its development and to make it available in large quantities.
I think that’s where we get in trouble… when we try to keep control over its development. If we focus on that control, instead of letting God do what He does best, we can get bogged down in looking at the rewards (say, a packed event) rather than the fruitfulness; the lives touched, the spiritual growth, the bonding through brokenness.
No matter what spiritual background we have… whether we were baptized at birth and raised within the church or whether we experienced some crisis that ultimately led us to Christ, no matter what brought us to this point in our walk… I’m sure every single one of us can give at least one way that our lives are different because of our faith, because of what our God has done FOR us and TO us. Now we’re each in a position to share that message.
As we do so, I think it’s important to remember that we never really know what impact we make on the lives of others. Just because we don’t see daily transformations or conversions, doesn’t mean we weren’t fruitful. We have no idea how God is at work behind the scenes. So we should do what we do, to the best of our abilities, but trust God is control.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5
So as I plan creative campaigns, design graphics for ministries, read web traffic and marketing insights to continually tweak and improve our performance, I can’t get lost in the numbers. I must put Him first, work on my relationship with Him and forge bonds with others in His name and then… and only then…. can my work be fruitful.