How Do You Measure Impact?


"You Are There” was a Walter Cronkite hosted television series from 1953 to 1957.  I do not remember those programs presented by the former CBS News Anchorman, but I do remember some Saturday morning revivals (in a shortened format) of this concept in the 1970’s.

The idea was to bring the viewer into the times and context of events as they unfolded.  In a similar fashion Jim Bratt invites the reader into a journey of events as they unfold in his acclaimed book, Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat.

I first engaged Abraham Kuyper as a freshman at Trinity Christian College where I read Lectures on Calvinism. This is the book form of his Stone Lectures delivered at Princeton Seminary in October of 1898. (The marked cost of my original copy is $3.75.)  These lectures broadened and deepened my appreciation for the Reformed world and life view for all of life.  These lectures also shaped me as they have for so many over such a long period of time.

It is with that note of appreciation that I came across Jim Bratt’s “You Are There” moment on the Stone Lectures when he notes that “an audience of three to four-dozen people attended them in the Seminary’s Miller Chapel.”  (p. 262)

Did those people understand the significance of what they were hearing?  As they sat in that chapel, did they look around and murmur, “Not much of a crowd, is it?”  What did Abraham Kuyper think of such a turnout after traveling across the Atlantic Ocean to deliver these lectures?  On the basis of that initial attendance, these lectures might not be seen as much of a success, but no one can disagree about their impact over the course of time.

This reminds me of a similar analysis when it comes to evaluating the Gettysburg Address given by Abraham Lincoln.  President Lincoln was not the main speaker that day of dedicating the Gettysburg Cemetery.  The main speaker was Edward Everett, who spoke for more than two hours while Lincoln spoke for only two minutes.  Over time the impact of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address can be clearly seen.

In life and in ministry, I need to be reminded that what I have related to as “initial success” is different than “impact.”

Part of my spiritual formation has been to work at being faithful and to understand that what may not be seen initially as a “success” is better left to God to work out as it may still lead to impact.  Being faithful, over time, is a hallmark of faithfulness, but also impact.

In the next few weeks, Calvin Seminary Professors Ron Nydam and Carl Bosma will present their “Last Lectures” as they enter into retirement.  Each has served well and faithfully and I invite you to hear their words of encouragement to the Church.  Please visit our website later this month to hear recordings of these lectures that will be delivered.

Finally, as I write these words during this Lenten season, I invite you to remember that when Jesus died on the cross it looked like all hope was lost.  But we also now mark the wonder of wonders with the resurrection that has led to an impact in our world and in our lives that no one can deny.

May we be people of faithfulness.  May we be people who are not swayed by false measures of “success”, but seek to be instruments of impact – one life at a time.

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