Many evaluate the success of a “ministry” using 2 forms of measurement:
1. How many people are a part of it?
2. How much money is it making?
However, this is not the criteria by which G-d measures. He is not one focuses on the outward appearance of things but rather looks inward…at the heart and motivation behind them. Since He is the only one who can look that deeply, He is the only one who sees all aspects perfectly. The primary way, scripture tells us, that we can discern whether something is righteous or pagan, authentic or pseudo, pure or corrupt is by the fruit that it produces.
What is fruit? It sounds simple enough but it seems that many believers have forgotten almost entirely what fruit is because it’s something that gets swept under the rug and excused more than its held in check and tested. Fruit, put simply, is the visible (external) evidence produced by internal decisions. It’s like the exhaust from the spiritual tailpipe, the reputation established. It’s the after-effect of action, the outcome, the outward manifestation of inner character. Fruit is the stuff that dangles on the end of the branch of your life and ministry. It’s the part people see and the part that will largely determine how you are perceived, by those who are witnesses of the fruit of your life.
Sadly, I believe that what seems to get more recognition today is fanfare…not fruit. The louder the volume, the bigger the TV screens, the bigger the bookstore, the more ear-tickling the sermons, the more mechanical the interactions are, the “wilder” the service is, the more it seems to get a check mark of approval. However, this is not fruit and not the means by which we are to assess whether true fruit exists. It is beneath all of this external fluff and fanfare that real fruit/evidence can be observed.
IHOP draws a lot of fanfare. It gets a LOT of attention…both positive and negative. They are on God TV, have financial supporters all over the world, a full (and continually growing) staff of interns, worship teams, speaking staff, media crew, etc. Yet as I look back on my experiences there, the fanfare worked hard to cover up the fruit that was missing. The high lasted for a long time and the spiritual hangover of that place took time to wear off. IHOP has carefully constructed an environment that manufactures spiritual highs and sells them at the price of an internship or conference registration. They come in book and CD form or you can get them virtually through their live web-streams. They seem “successful” because they know how to harness the power of addiction. They can draw a large following because they know how to appeal to people’s emotions and magnetically draw them into false views of the nature of G-d and the true gospel.