He did not end with a large following of people. At the end of his life many turned away from Paul. More than likely he had been arrested one too many times, so they began to doubt his character. There were also many scoundrels who slandered his good name, and after hearing it so often some actually began to believe it. Other leaders were perhaps more popular or demanded greater audiences, but Paul was faithful, fruitful and finished well.
The test of his greatness is demonstrated after his eulogy had long passed. The world that he lived in was changed for his having lived in it. What we know and experience today as Christians has his influence all over it. Even this blog post is the influence of his life well lived.
How many of us can claim greater fruitfulness in our absence than in our presence (see Phil 2:12)? One can even question whether you are a success if it only remains while you are present. All of us need a more long-range view of what success really is. I want my influence to go beyond driving distance to my church and beyond my eulogy. Paul had that kind of success.
It is not how many buy your books in the first month, but how many are still reading it 70 years later that determines your success as an author. It is not how well your child does in school today, but how well they raise their own children decades later that determines your success as a parent. It is not how many people attend your church today that determines your success as a pastor, but how many other pastors are left to lead the churches that remain when you have gone.
Jesus saw greater impact postmortem (and post resurrection) than he did during his days walking on the planet. In fact, he even said that his disciples would do greater works than he (John 14:12). Perhaps we are all too enamored with the signs of immediate success to take the time to take the long view.
The leadership of the previous generation that started all these mega churches is now about to take its greatest test. I wonder how well they will do. The founding leaders are getting older and now thinking about succession. Some are passing the baton to their children but many are not doing so gracefully.
Will your influence survive your own eulogy?