We cannot always measure effectiveness by visible fruit. Some of my favorite testimonies of salvation are of people who trusted Christ after repeated witnessing attempts by multiple people.
Even the Apostle Paul experienced times when he witnessed and the fruit wasn’t immediate.
I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.—1 Corinthians 3:6
So if we try to measure the effectiveness of our witness on fruit alone, we may miscalculate. Perhaps during a season when we are diligently sowing seed, we won’t see fruit. On the other hand, we may be in a season when we are reaping another man’s labor and are seeing great fruit although our own witness may or may not be effective.
The bottom line is that God grades on faithfulness, not evident fruitfulness.
So how do we measure faithfulness? Is it simply by our heart to continue? Is it because we are open to sharing the gospel if the opportunity arises?
I don’t believe we can truly claim faithfulness if we are not actively participating in the Great Commission. In other words, there is a correlation between my faithfulness to Christ and my level of engagement in personally sharing the gospel.
Below are five questions I ask myself on a regular basis, and especially if I am not seeing as much personal fruit in a given season:
1. With how many unsaved people am I presently cultivating a relationship? Every Christian should be actively building the relationships within their sphere of contact for the purpose of sharing Christ. But it takes intention to pursue these.
2. How many recent doors have I knocked on or witnessing opportunities have I initiated as I was led by the Spirit? I can guarantee you that there are people who live near you who are not saved but would trust Christ if you would seek them out. And I believe the language of the Great Commission calls for this: “Go ye…” (Matthew 28:19). If we only witness to those who happen to have a relationship with us, we miss these kinds of opportunities.
3. When was the last time I personally shared the gospel with a lost person? If I knock on one hundred doors every week, but I never share the gospel itself, I may need to reevaluate my approach. Am I approaching every contact with the intent of initiating gospel conversation? Am I turning the conversation to Christ, sin, and salvation? If it’s been more than a couple weeks since I actually shared the message of the gospel personally, I think that means I need to seek out more opportunities.
4. How many people has God used me to reach? Although we can’t measure faithfulness by fruit alone, it can be part of the picture.
5. How many others am I involving? This question is specifically for leaders. Part of the Great Commission is training others to witness as well (Matthew 28:20). As a pastor, then, my burden is not just to go myself, but to involve others. The same should be true of a Sunday school teacher, Bible study leader, discipler, parent…anyone with any spiritual influence in another’s life. (See also 2 Timothy 2:2.)
Although there is a real distinction between faithfulness and fruitfulness, I think we need to be careful that we don’t excuse fruitlessness with an assumed faithfulness.
As we approach fall and the visible reminders of harvest around us, may we ask the Lord to increase our fruitfulness for Him, and may we proactively and passionately engage in our witness for Him.
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.—2 Corinthians 5:20