It’s easy to fall into the trap of measuring our influence by it’s known numeric size. How many members does our church/class have? What is our average attendance? How many people have I led to Christ? How many people have I discipled?
Because size is one measure of growth, I do track numbers within our ministry. We count attendance, professions of salvation, baptisms, etc. And when these numbers dip, we prayerfully examine our processes and diligence. But size is only one measure of growth, and it is not a reliable measure of influence.
- Charles Spurgeon was saved at a small, country church and through the message of a lay preacher.
- D. L. Moody was led to Christ by a Sunday school teacher of a relatively-small class.
- William Carey was born in a tiny English village and mentored in ministry through small town pastors.
Although we’ve heard these types of stories, it’s good to be reminded of them. The size of your ministry—church, Sunday school class, small group, Christian school—is not nearly as important as the influence of your ministry. God can use anyone to touch someone else’s life for Him.
But there is another encouraging aspect of this principle that we easily forget and that is the need for our influence in the midst of competing influences.
Regardless of the size of your ministry, it is smaller than the need surrounding you. In fact, the larger the need, the greater impact your influence can have.
We tend to look at this all wrong. We look at the darkness surrounding us and become overwhelmed and discouraged. We wonder, What difference can my little bit of influence have amidst such great need?
The reality, however, is that the greater the need, the greater impact each person can have. This truth is encapsulated in the statement, “The darker the night, the brighter the light.”
This means that when the world is the darkest,
- Our influence for Christ and the gospel is more needed than ever.
- The potential for impact through our influence is greater than ever.
The New Testament illustration of this truth is the church at Thessalonica. You may remember that Thessalonica was one of the cities in Macedonia. The church was so poor that Paul had to be persuaded to even accept an offering they sent through him to suffering Christians in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:1–4). But a church need not be wealthy, large, well-connected, or famous to be influential in its gospel efforts. In fact, the church in Thessalonica was so influential in the spread of the gospel that 1 Thessalonians 1:8 says, “For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.”
I have the privilege of serving Christ in the most populated state in the nation. At nearly forty million residents, California contains 12 percent of the entire nation’s population. Our state also happens to be the most liberal. Some California residents and pastors have become discouraged. They feel they are fighting a losing war to keep preaching the gospel in a state that seems determined to turn its back on God and on any Christian values.
I see it differently. What greater place could there be to declare the gospel than the state that most needs it?
But this isn’t only a California problem. I meet and hear from Christian leaders all over America and around the world who seem to feel that as the world grows darker, we must assume that the gospel can’t penetrate the darkness like it once did. The opposite is true. Our world especially needs the gospel.
So what can you do?
1. Refuse discouragement. Do not let Satan tell you that your efforts are worthless. Do not believe that the time and care you invest to share the gospel, disciple a new Christian, prepare sermons or lessons, make class visits, or otherwise invest in the work of the ministry are fruitless.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
2. Resist complaining. I’m all for political engagement. I believe Christians, and specifically American Christians, have the unique opportunity to choose and participate in their government. We should appreciate the freedoms that have sacrificially been provided for us by voting, staying aware and engaged, contacting our leaders, and encouraging politicians and the passing of laws that uphold biblical values. But if what Christians become known for is their political complaining or their stance on masks and vaccinations (pro or against), we have missed our primary calling.
Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; (Philippians 2:14–15)
3. Renew outreach. There is an old quote that is often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt but was actually first printed in a sermon in the September 1907 issue of China’s Millions. The statement goes, “It is far better to light the candle than to curse the darkness.”
God has given you and me the privilege of holding the light of the gospel in dark days. Are you purposefully, proactively, personally sharing that light with others? If there was ever a time for Christians to declare the gospel, it is today.
If you’re a pastor, what can you do to renew your church’s outreach ministries? Do you have a strategic plan to saturate your area with the gospel? Are you implementing your plan? Is evangelism a matter of consistent prayer and effort among your church family? What can you do to encourage faithfulness?
If you’re a church member, are you sharing the gospel? Are you looking for opportunities to witness to those you come in contact with on a regular basis? Are you creating time in your schedule to participate in churchwide outreach efforts? Are you praying for fruit?
There is an opportunity in front of us right now to have a real impact for Christ. If the gospel could spread in the first century through the church of Thessalonica, it can spread in the twenty-first century through local churches today.
Yes, the world may be dark and be darkening. That just makes our opportunity to influence others with the light of the gospel greater.