God’s messengers have never been known for their success rate. Noah failed to save the lives of his contemporaries from the flood. Moses failed to get Pharaoh to let his people go. The prophets failed to get God’s people to remember they were God’s people. Jesus’s life ended in a vicious, brutal public execution.
Why go and share a message that is bound to fail? Why not do some focus groups and market research to figure out what people want to hear, and how to tell them?
Why not focus on the target market that is least likely to kill you?
It’s because Jesus message isn’t a new product or philosophy. It’s the promise that people can change.
Jesus on Failure
Jesus never gave the impression that people would like him or his message. In fact, he made it very clear that it requires a tremendous sacrifice that few are willing to commit. He says things like:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mt. 16:24)
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Mt. 7:13-14)
Sometimes people hear this and get the wrong idea. They immediately say that Jesus is some exclusivist. They make this passage about who he like and who he condemns.
That’s an oversimplification. Jesus is just stating the fact: My message is hard. My good news comes at a price. Most people won’t want to pay that price.
What Can’t Be Forced
Jesus is giving people the chance to change. The thing about change is that you can’t force it on people.
You’ve probably known someone who made poor decisions. Maybe they had a habit of getting into bad relationships. Maybe they had an addiction. Maybe just a bad diet or bad hygiene. You can’t force them to change. All you can do, is clearly and lovingly, let them know that a better way is possible.
There’s a very good chance that when you try to help people change, they will choose to ignore you and keep doing what they’re doing.
How You Go
When Jesus sends people out, he’s not so much concerned about where they go or what they accomplish. He is concerned about how they go.
The first thing he wants them to understand is that they will often fail. Their goal isn’t success. Their goal is to call people to join them in following Jesus.
You cannot call people to Jesus with clever or coercive methods that Jesus himself would not use. Simply put, as you go, you must speak the the truth in love. Being true to Jesus, even if it risk’s failure, is much more important than success.
Wherever we go, whatever we choose to do, it’s crucial that we go with this understanding that it is okay to fail, and it is more important to love.
Chris works across the organization to help get new projects off the ground and into the world. He also helps to manage our email, social media and other digital communications. He helped plant Austin Mustard Seed, where he served for five years as Community Developer. He also works with several other non-profits and businesses to tell their story with content and social media. In 2012, he graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary with a M.A. in Global Leadership. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife Laura.