There is a commonly repeated saying that usually goes this way: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results!” We can see this principle as true and valid in various areas of our lives. If we are not brushing our teeth every night, then we can expect to continue to get cavities. If we keep spending money that we do not have, then we cannot expect our savings account to be busting at the seams. If we continue to eat swiss cake rolls for breakfast and doughnuts for supper, then we cannot expect to lose weight. In each of these situations is it quite obvious that something has to change in order to get different results.
Now, let us think about another matter altogether. Does that saying above apply to the church as well? Is it true that, in the church, if we continue to do the same things over and over again that we cannot expect different results? I think that answer lies in what those “things” are we are doing over and over again and also upon how we define “results.” By “things,” what, specifically, are we referring to? Are we to quit preaching if we don’t see it “working,” and do something else? Certainly, every preacher can improve on his preaching, but are we to Not preach so that we can get a different “result”? Are we to quit praying because we do not see that praying is “working”? Do we mean that if we do not see a great number of people busting down the doors to get into our church that we are to change what we are doing in our services? What are we to change about the church if we do not see the “results” we want? Are the “results” we’re desiring even within our power to produce? There is a wonderful story that I’ve posted before that I believe will illuminate a proper response to our question as to whether the church should “change its ways” in order to produce the “desired results.”
THE STORY OF LUKE SHORT
Have you ever heard of the story of Luke Short? (this story is found in Mark Dever’s book “The Gospel and Personal Evangelism,” pg. 81-83 as well as at this site). Luke Short lived in Dartmouth (England) and heard a sermon when he was 15 years old by the preacher John Flavel. Short did not accept Christ that day but was apparently listening to Flavel, unbeknownst to Flavel or anyone else. Many years later (85 years later to be exact!), Short was in New England (in America) and was out in his field farming when God brought to his remembrance the sermon that Flavel preached when he was 15 years old, and Short accepted Christ 85 years later at the ripe young age of 100!
There’s no way that Flavel, or any other person that day at Dartmouth, would have known that God was doing anything in Luke Short’s life after the preaching was finished. For all Flavel knew, the sermon was a “dud” regarding Luke Short. There were no outward signs of repentance or weeping over sins, etc. There were no immediate, outward results to the preaching that day. Flavel was faithful in preaching the Word, and God’s seed was planted into Luke Short’s heart. God, I’m quite certain, used many other people over the next 85 years to water the seed that was planted in Short’s heart, but God did not harvest that seed until long after the preacher, Flavel, was dead. If we were deciding when Short was to be saved, it would have been at 15 years old that day when he was hearing Flavel preach. But it wasn’t until He was 100 years old that the Holy Spirit decided to “blow” upon Short’s heart and to save him. This story ought to be an encouragement to every ministry, lay leader, and church worker to know that they are doing God’s will by planting and watering seeds, even if they do not see immediate results.
MINISTRY FAITHFULNESS=”INSANITY” MOST OF THE TIME!
If Flavel preached & had no visible results yet planted seeds with each sermon he preached and was able to reap results many decades later (as in Short’s case), then he was doing the very thing that would produce results, it’s just not results that would be immediate! What would happen if Flavel adopted our “insanity” saying above and decided to quit preaching because he “didn’t see results”? Obviously, seeds would not be planted or watered and Luke Short may not have been saved! Are we, at least with some elements within the Christian church, required and called by God to do some particular things over and over again? I think that the unequivocal answer to that question is “YES!” YES, we are to keep preaching! YES, we are to keep teaching! YES, we are to keep worshipping & leading others in worship FOR seeds are being planted & watered & GOD will bring the increase in His due time! The “insanity” approach does not perfectly fit ministry for there are some things that we are commanded to do over & over & over again, whether we see outward results or not, & that is preaching the Word, worship, pray, & be a part of a Christian community.
Based on this phrase, you might say that to the extent that the church is “insane” (by doing the ordinary means of grace, mentioned above, over & over & over again without ceasing) is the extent that the church is faithful to what God has called it to be and do. Are we to give up & forsake God’s ordinary means of grace or are we to be faithful and persevere & trust God even when we don’t see outward, immediate results? Are we supposed to branch out and try new and different means to “bring people to the altar” or to “get folks in the door”? Should we establish a dog show or a Marvel comics extravaganza in our church, in the place of preaching and teaching, so that others would be more interested in coming to church? Are we to continually seek to be innovative, spectacular, and edgy in order to “enhance” our worship while the preaching, praying, and singing by the people of God become more and more diminished? Obviously, the answer is “No.” Is the issue simply a matter of not trusting in God’s ordinary means of grace and also in not having a persevering and enduring stance in the midst of apparent “failure”? Are we really “failing” if we are doing what God has told us to do, even if we do not see immediate results, and even if He has told us to do it over and over again? Maybe “insanity,” given our definition above, might actually be “Faithfulness to God’s Word” in most cases!
I’d love to hear your comments in the “Leave a Reply” section below.