(May 11, 2020)
Jonah 3:5 The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

If Jonah were one of our missionaries and he were to walk into our sanctuary this Sunday, can you imagine the report? We would ask, “Jonah, how’s it going?” And he would say, “You are not going to believe this. I preached to the whole entire Great City of Nineveh. Every single person showed up. Even the king. I preached from the greatest to the least – I even reached the cattle.” Then we would all “oh” and “ah” and have a special offering. That is was we would call “success.” And we would wonder how we might be more like Jonah.

Jonah’s preaching bore great fruit. It could not have turned out any better.

That, at least, is what it would look like if Jonah were an American. It’s the question that is almost always asked – and asked first – about a congregation: how many people were there? The numbers game.

* * *

Now imagine something different: What if near the end of 2020 we looked back upon this time and were able to say: “I finally saw and named in myself a big growth area. It has been painful, and sometimes it feels slow, but I am growing. A few other committed believers really know what is going on and are supporting me. They are looking out for my best interest, but won’t tell me just what I want to hear. I know this is bringing about a great change in my life and I am becoming closer to Jesus because of it.”

Imagine this: a follower of Jesus identifying an area of brokenness in their life; naming it; and growing. And the people praise God because of it.

Instead of citing numbers, what if the “big church question” was: How are we more like Jesus today than a year ago?

“Success” redefined: Naming and addressing our issues. In order to become more like Jesus.

And then you might notice a blind spot:

Jonah’s preaching bore great fruit. It could not have turned out any better.

Unless, of course, you are Jonah. It seems one person in Nineveh did not repent after all.

* * *

Father, we humbly ask you to search us and know us. Help us become more like Jesus. Thank you for being gentle. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.