“Dear brethren, our real trouble is not doubt about the way upon which we have set out, but our failure to be patient, to keep quiet. We still cannot imagine that today God really doesn’t want anything new for us, but simply to prove us in the old way. That is too petty, too monotonous, too undemanding for us. And we simply cannot be constant with the fact that God’s cause is not always the successful one, that we really could be ‘unsuccessful’: and yet be on the right road. But this is where we find out whether we have begun in faith or in a burst of enthusiasm.
There is a subtle easiness to define success (secular or sacred) as that which is bigger and better. I see catchy graphics, professional bands, spacious church buildings and I think that a church is being successful. I catch myself because I know that isn’t true, yet my emotions quickly run to that corner of reasoning.
Bonhoeffer knew that newer and extravagant didn’t mean success. Jesus left a three year ministry with 12 disciples and around 120 followers. Those people turned the world upside down because they had a passion for Jesus. Success is not fruitfulness but success is faithfulness as Billy Graham said.
When I think of successful people I think of my cousin’s husband who just took a job in rural Wisconsin as a pastor of a small church. He left the city life to follow God’s call for him and his family. When I think of success I think of my two pastors who faithfully and joyfully serve my small church. I have benefited tremendously from their mentoring and their love for Jesus. These are men who biographers will probably not write books about but whom Jesus looks at with great delight.
Bonhoeffer reminds me to be faithful in the mundane and the menial and to be the guy who is commended in Matthew 25:23.
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”