It’s harvest season. Garden growers have been working without pause for the last six months or more. They planted seeds way back in March and transferred tiny seedlings in May.
They now labor to the finish line, fatigued from the daily grind of watering, weed picking, fertilizing, and protecting the crops from pestilence, heat, and—at least in Colorado—hungry deer who can obliterate a year of work in a single night.
The harvest is right around the corner, but planters and growers are weary. It’s been a daily slog for months. Many of us are ready for the first freeze because more careful tending feels like too much. It’s tempting to stop work now, rather than to press on to the final God-ordained day of the growing season.
Paul used agricultural metaphors in his letters to church planters and church growers because the parallels are so easily grasped. The agrarian world of the first century was a constant object lesson in growth. He admonished the church at Galatia, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9, NIV).
The work of the church planter, his family, and his team is one of sowing, tending, and harvesting in a faith family that is organic and alive. Like the gardener and the farmer near harvest time, this is a season when many church planters are weary, ready to be done, feeling ill-equipped to continue the watering, the fertilizing, and the protecting. We look at the sky and ask the Lord, “Is this season over yet?”
Church planter, do not grow weary of doing good. In due season, you will reap a harvest if you do not give up. You can trust this promise of God. Your congregation is a field approaching harvest time. Don’t stop now. God is at work. Just as in the physical fields, the growth in your church is seasonal, hidden, and inevitable.
Like agricultural growth, spiritual growth is seasonal. As humans with a limited perspective, we want our growth and the growth in our churches to be linear, a continuous climb at a 45-degree angle. We think dips in progress—valleys between peaks—signal that something is wrong. But we ourselves and our congregations are living organisms. We don’t grow in a straight line. There are scorching days and unexpected freezes, dry seasons and floods. Sometimes we flourish. Sometimes we suffer.
Pastor, do not be discouraged. Nothing grows in a straight line. Keep your eyes fixed on God who alone gives the growth (1 Cor. 3:6).
Like agricultural growth, spiritual growth is hidden. A friend of mine grew potato plants this year. She was frustrated by what appeared to be a lack of growth above the soil. Her leaves were lackluster and the plants never produced flowers. Fed up and ready for winter, she decided to empty the potato pots and save them for next spring. But when she dumped the soil, she found an abundant harvest of potatoes below. There was no indication above ground that there was such healthy fruit beneath. And so it is with us.
Pastor, if you are discouraged that you cannot see fruit, trust the Lord of the harvest that it is there, happening in secret, ready to be revealed on the appointed day.
And finally, here is the best truth: like agricultural growth, spiritual growth is inevitable. Seeds will grow. Anyone who has walked a city street knows that even asphalt cannot hold back blades of grass and concrete cannot keep a tree from bursting through. If a seed is present, a plant will grow. And so it is with the Holy Spirit who lives inside those who are born again in Jesus (1 Cor. 3:16).
Pastor, there will be a harvest to reap in your congregation because the Spirit is there. And if the Spirit is there, there will be growth. Don’t stop watering, fertilizing, and protecting. A harvest is coming—not because of you, your methods, or your people—but because the Spirit is there.
A friend recently served her family a homegrown salad. With equal parts surprise and delight, she told me about how excited she was to bring tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, and carrots into her kitchen from her own backyard. She said the harvest was humble, but it was beautiful in her sight. She had tended and it had indeed grown.
Church planter, with God’s help you have sown seed, you have tilled soil, and you have labored with all of Christ’s energy in you (Col. 1:29). Keep going. In due season, you will reap. Do not give up. The Spirit is at work. The growth is seasonal and hidden, but it is also inevitable.
Written by: Jen Oshman