Thursday, June 11, 2015

Planting, Watering, and Growing the Kingdom

Twice within the past several months, I have had the peculiar blessing of returning to a church that I formerly served as pastor, and doing funerals for people from those churches who passed on.  It has been a dozen years since I was pastor of that church, yet the people of that congregation still remember me well and wanted me to return to honor their departed.  This was, and is always, a delicate prospect for a former pastor to return and conduct a wedding, funeral, or some such event.  Especially if the church currently has a pastor.  In this particular case, the current pastor has been at my former church for two years.  His ministry there is blessed, and he is making progress in the congregation.  He is well-loved and admired by many.   Yet, I couldn't help but feel awkward in returning for those funerals.  The families had asked me to perform the funerals, and had asked him to assist.  When I returned, they lavished me with hugs, kisses, and praise.  I, in return, did everything that I could to honor the dead, but also to encourage and support the current pastor, and to praise him to his congregation.  Occasionally, people would make comparisons between him and me.  I would gently say, "He's not me, and I'm not him.  I'm glad that the Lord has called him to be your pastor."

The church in Corinth suffered from divided loyalties between leaders within the church, and leaders outside of the church.  Some said, "I follow Peter."  Others said, "I follow Paul."  Some said, "I follow Apollos," while others said, "I follow Christ."  And so the church was divided.  Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 (NASB):

What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

By this, Paul meant two things.  First, he meant that the people should not be divided in their loyalties.  Each servant of God has certain strengths and weaknesses.  Each has special abilities, and purposes within God's plan and timing at that church.  Rather than comparing leaders, the people should seek unity of heart and purpose.  The second thing that Paul meant was that people like Paul, Peter, and Apollos should not feel threatened by each other or like they have to compete.  God's purpose is brought about when they support one another and work together for His glory.  Those who work within God's kingdom need to do so without taking credit, and without attachment to the result.  As we work together, each of us needs to trust God, who allows us to do our part, and ensures that the rest is done by fellow members of the body.  We need to not think that any one of us might grow the church.  Some plant; others water.  God gives the growth.

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