Monday, September 30, 2013

Sowers and Reapers

The reason it's easy to focus on the harvest in ministry is because that's where the payoff seems to be. Nobody's impressed by freshly-tilled soil. Nobody rushes to the store to buy seedlings for their salad. No. We want a big, hearty tomato and we don't care how it got here. (Fill in your favorite produce item here.)

That's why it's tempting to focus on how many people follow you into the church parking lot on Sunday morning. That's tangible. That's a number. That makes you feel like you're doing something for God's people. For God.

But the truth about ministry, or anything else you do for God, is that you don't always get to see the pay off.

Moses didn't. Remember him? Moses risked his life to stand before Pharaoh and demand the release of God's people. He put his reputation on the line to lead the people through the wilderness. He led with passion and fought with pride and pulled these people toward a Promised Land, even when they weren't sure they were all that interested any more. Remember what he got for all that work? A look through the binoculars at a holy land he wasn't ever going to enter.

Joseph didn't. Remember him? He got them into the Egypt mess in the first place, by saving them. God put him in position to provide during a family, and Joseph ended up getting a remnant of Israel a place to stay in Egypt so they wouldn't all die out from lack of food. He believed God would save His people and restore them to their lands, but Joseph died in Egypt. Only his bones ever saw the Promise.

Paul didn't. Remember him? Paul was one of the most incredible missionaries whose stories we have been able to read. He traveled. He taught. He graced an entire region with the good news of God, believing that the church was there for the taking if only someone would dare to plant such a thing. Not one of his letters ever read, "Congratulations, guys! You made it! You are an awesome church, exactly what God intended!" (They probably still wouldn't today.) He spent his entire life planting and pulling weeds, never seeing the way the church has grown since his death. He probably died thinking about the strife between the elders at Thessalonika.

Yet you look at these men and you say, of course they did something worthy for God. It's only upon looking again that you realize their contribution was never in the harvest.

So it is with us. We weren't all meant to be reapers. Some of us are sowers. Some of us are tenders. Most of us may spend our entire lives planting and pulling weeds...but you never know what you're creating space for. You never know what you're setting up to grow.

In all of Scripture, I think there's only one figure I would say was a harvester, and that is Christ. The rest were field hands in changing seasons. So what makes you think you're so special? Button up the overalls, grab the hoe (God used a good many ho to accomplish His work....sorry....I couldn't help myself) and get your hands dirty. Plant and pull weeds. Out there lies the Promise, and your work is to help it grow.

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