We all like big numbers. Whether it’s how many people clicked on our blog link, or the number of people attending our lifegroup or church event, or how many people we’ve led to the Lord (or at least how many people we can file under “witnessed-to”), how much our work bonus was for, or even (dare I say it), how many “likes” we get on our Facebook post. Big numbers make us feel important.
We’re enveloped in a culture that prizes big numbers, big successes, and extreme accomplishments. I think these ideas have naturally found their way into our church culture as well. We are surrounded by great world changers like Billy Graham, Praying Hyde, and Hudson Taylor, who’ve reached many for the Kingdom, and we rightly honor them as heroes of the faith. We grow up going to passionate conferences calling us to higher goals, and teenage mission trips encouraging us to hope for great waves of conversions. These ideals and experiences fuel our desires for spiritual greatness. We idolize the great heroes of the faith, attempting to emulate them. We’re filled with grandiose plans to be the next wave of World Changers.
But I’ve been thinking for several months about the opposite of big numbers. Lately my thoughts have formed a life of their own, thoughts revolving around Single Digits. What if it’s ok, even good, even great, maybe even just perfect, for our goal in “reaching people for the Gospel” to be reaching a small number of people, a number we can count on one or two hands?
What if the standard that we all be world changers might just possibly be more harmful than helpful? Because for me, I’ve been hoping for World Changer status for quite a few years now, and I’m starting to think it might just not happen. Maybe, at least for me, it could be more realistic to start hoping to be a family changer or immediate-vicinity changer.
I’m starting to realize that when I’m focusing on “what Great Thing am I meant to do?” I become discontent with the “tiny” thing I’m doing now. I internally start to devalue the ministry that I’m involved in right now, at this moment. I start to downgrade my own work, seeing it as miniscule compared to what I could be doing. In doing this, I’m mistakenly elevating myself into this elite group of a few hundred or a few thousand Super Christians who have gone down in fame. But realistically there are millions of Normal Christians who’ve lived and died unknown, nameless, who are so much more “every day,” and far more like me. And it begs the question, what’s so wrong with “every day”?
We have this wonderful little Lifegroup, with just a few people in our little fellowship. It’s not huge, and it’s not growing by the dozens. We love this group, each person in it. Yet, there’s a little voice inside my head saying, that’s not big enough to make a difference in the world.
We have four children. We adore them with our whole hearts, and put our souls into raising them. But is just raising children really enough? It’s only 4 people, when there are billions out there. It’s wonderful, and it’s a holy calling, but it’s not actual “ministry”; those are my kids… right? And that voice again says, it’s not all there is to my ministry in this world, right?
We’ve had small successes in friendship. But those pale in comparison to the ones we’ve lost when we spoke truth. Maybe these friendships built on truth and love will last, but in my experience, more often than not, I will end up alone at the end, wondering why I invested all that time and emotional energy. And there’s that voice again, the one that says, yet more time lost on one person who didn’t even respond.
But then, another voice somewhere inside of my soul says, “What if my whole life is about single digits?”
What if I wasn’t designed to reach hundreds, not expected to bring change to the Many? What if it is fulfilling the Lord’s design for me just to reach my 4 kids, my small group, and my intimate circle of friends? What if that is completely and totally enough for my soul to be happy for eternity? What if I am not meant to be a Billy Graham, and it is ok? Or Elizabeth Elliot or Amy Carmichael? What if I am just Grace Rowe, a nobody? A nobody who doesn’t change the world at all, but whose scope is in the single digits.
But I could say, man, those single digits were GREAT.
Who knows what the Lord has in store for our family, for our scope of reach? Of course we should always be reaching out to the lost, desiring to bring all that the Lord has for us into the fold, and using our God-given gifts to enlarge the Kingdom. But being content with single digits, seeing ministry as completely and utterly important, even if our influence reaches only a small few, THIS brings a new perspective, a new contentment, a new importance to our small work as parents, lifegroup leaders or members, friends, family members.
Maybe, at least for me, I wasn’t made to reach Many. Maybe I will count on one hand at the end of my life the people I brought to the Lord. Maybe that’s ok with Him. Maybe it should be ok with me.
Certainly, some of us absolutely ARE “world changers.” But for those of us who think, “maybe I will always be unknown and nameless in the history books, and probably there will not be written a biography of my life,” take heart! We aren’t all Pauls and Peters, but we ARE all equally valuable.
My husband and I were talking about this a while back, and he reminded me of the parable in the Gospels of the servants and the bags of gold. The Master gave one man 5 bags of gold, and another man was given 2 bags of gold. When the Master returned to the men, the one given only 2 bags of gold, but was faithful to invest it, was honored and rewarded in the exact same fashion as the one with the 5 bags, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.”
Maybe we aren’t all given 5 bags of gold. Maybe I’ve just been given 1. Or maybe just a couple of coins. But the important thing is that I am found faithful with my few, single digits. And then, the voice I will hear at the End is well done good and faithful servant, come and share your master’s happiness.
And that is good enough for me.