How do we measure success? What is our scorecard, if you will? I can tell you what the scorecard is in the church world. Most often it is, "how many?" and "how much?" I was recently at a church leadership conference and, as is the case with most conferences, the keynote speakers were well known pastors and leaders, many of whom lead the largest or fastest growing (in terms of Sunday attendance) churches in North America. One of the recurring messages throughout the conference (at least to my ears) was that bigger is not always better. Sometimes bigger is just bigger. Pastors of local churches who gather thousands of people together each weekend almost spoke in envy of the small church plant who can't seem to get more than a handful of people together, but operates in a intensely focused missional mode. I heard these large church pastors… leaders of staffs larger than most churches in the United States… longing for the simplicity of the house church. This is what my ears heard from leader after leader. "You don't want my life! Leading a church like I lead is complex and overwhelming and many days it seems like in some ways we've missed the boat." Leader after leader asked the question on this large platform, "How do we get back to basics, and start making disciples of Jesus?" They said this to thousands of church leaders who look upon them as "rockstars" in the church world. My guess, however, is that most of the leaders in that room (myself included) have been so shaped by the traditional scorecard of "how many?" and "how much?" that we either have no idea how to apply what we heard or we thought something like, "That's just what big church pastors say so that those of us who are struggling don't feel invalidated by our lack of success."
This text from Matthew 7 is instruction to Jesus' followers about false prophets. How do you distinguish the good from the bad? Jesus puts it very plainly in verse 20. He says, "…by their fruit you will recognize them." I'm not really interested this morning in pointing fingers at false prophets, although I think it important for each of us to distinguish the voices of those God puts in our path to speak prophetically into our lives. What I am interested in, however, is how we distinguish the good fruit from the bad… or even the adequate from the extraordinary.
If you've ever been to a McDonald's (or if you've seen one for that matter) you have probably noticed that their sign boasts "Billions Served." I think McDonald's values putting a good product out to their customers… or at least an adequate one. Their food is not revolting, but it isn't going to win any awards either. What they are more interested in, however, is serving their food to as many people as they possibly can… quickly. They have fed billions with adequate burgers and above average fries and their intent is to serve billions more. For McDonald's, the fruit that they bear is measured by "how many?" and "how much?" Outside of those measures, however, no one looks at McDonald's and says, "Wow! What they are producing is remarkable." No. What they are producing is adequate. It serves a purpose, but it isn't remarkable. How different then is the experience of going to a little village cafe where the food is made to order from fresh local ingredients… prepared with great care by a master chef and presented to you by a knowledgeable server who knows exactly what wine would enhance your dining experience even further. This little cafe will never serve billions, but what they serve (and how they serve) the few has a much greater impact. The "fruit" they bear is quite different. Eating remarkable food awakens in one the imagination of what food can be, and it creates a longing to replicate that experience. How do we replicate the remarkable… not just the adequate?
How might we in our church communities or our home groups or our families… how might we bear the kind of fruit that captures the imagination of those we serve? How might we become disciple making disciples who help people become captivated by how the world might be changed by the power of God working in and through the people of God? How might we learn to measure success by the kind of fruit we bear, not simply how much we can produce?