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Planting and Watering

January 29, 2010

We have been studying about the harvest principle in the New Testament, and I have been reflecting on 1 Corinthians 3. Here are a few, disjointed thoughts.

Some caveats to get out of the way –
1. Yes, I do think it is ok for us to admit that God has blessed some people with great talent, and when they use that talent for ministry, I believe it is ok to affirm – “Hey, he is a talented teacher.” For example – Apollos was obviously a talented orator.
2. God has chosen to work through His people, so it is important that we work. We can’t sit around, do nothing, and expect good things to happen for God when He has explicitly chosen to work through His church.
3. It is ok for us to rejoice when we have a lot of people present for a worship service, a great number of baptisms, etc. I know I do. We just need to be giving the glory to God, not ourselves.

Are we all together? Ok.

If we start taking credit for what we do in ministry (big human temptation), then we have missed the point of ministry altogether. When Paul talked about that subject in 1 Corinthians 3, he said that he planted, Apollos watered, and God gave the increase. In ministry, we plant and water. Sure, we can and should learn how to be more effective in our teaching and caring for others, but ultimately God is giving the increase. To me, it is a difference between being responsible to something and responsible for something. I am responsible to do my best in ministry, but I am not responsible for the results only God can accomplish. I am no more responsible for that increase then if I plant a flower, water it, and then tell people I am responsible for the existence of that flower. The seed was already there, and the growth process was set in motion by God. All I did was plant and water – I got to be a part of the process, but I was not responsible for it. Responsible to but not responsible for.

It is so easy to look for tangible results in ministry as proof of our own success, probably because we often derive much of our identity from our occupation. I mean, do we really think that after thousands of people became Christians on the Day of Pentecost that Peter thought, “Wow. I must be a really good preacher.” I doubt it, because it was obvious that the Holy Spirit was working through Peter and the other apostles. Just because not many people decided to become Christians after Paul’s Mars Hill sermon, does that it mean it was a failure? No, it is part of God’s inspired word and it has helped Christians grow for centuries. It was not a reflection on Paul’s preaching; God was in control.

That is also true of conversion. Frankly, I cringe when I hear the phrase “He converted him/her.” I understand what is meant by that, but I think we could choose a better way to phrase it. I know there are times where just one person is involved and an individual is converted, but usually there is more than one Christian who has shown Christ to that individual. God gives the increase, not us. Even when just one person is involved, we know that the power resides in the gospel story, not our own talent.

At Crittenden Drive, we have been privileged to witness several baptisms lately of our middle school and high school students. It has been neat to think about all the different influences in their lives – parents, teachers, friends, our youth minister, camp counselors, retreat chaperones, etc. God has used all those individuals to encourage those young people. He gave the increase.

We should rejoice when growth takes place, we just need to keep reminding ourselves who is responsible. Not necessarily a new idea from scripture, just a challenging one.

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