I love mowing my lawn. There’s a profound gratification that comes when the tall grass in front of me becomes short grass behind me. The instant fruit of my labor is a refreshing reprieve from the life of ministry, where fruit grows painfully slow and is often elusive.
To stand and look at a well-manicured lawn brings great joy—but in a week it will be overgrown once again. Some will see the monotonous repetition of mowing grass that will only grow tall again as futile. But I choose to see it as the sweet blessing of God, allowing, once again, the reprieve from “real life” to enjoy the gratification of fruitful labor—tall grass becoming short all over again.
Perspective is Everything
So it is with pastoral ministry. We engage in this calling amid our own struggles, sins, and doubts, but perspective is everything. A pastor’s life is defined by a long string of seemingly monotonous, repetitive tasks. We preach the same gospel message to the same people, time and again. We deal with the same sins, the same struggles, and sometimes, the same criticisms.
And just like mowing the lawn, we can view the repetitive nature of ministry as futility and be discouraged. Or we can view the labor of ministry as blessed rhythms through which the Spirit works powerfully in our community. While the world tends to view mundane repetition as valueless, God uses it to grow our patience and increase our faith in his power and plan.CLICK TO TWEET
God’s ways are not our ways. While the world tends to view mundane repetition as valueless, God uses it to grow our patience and increase our faith in his power and plan. Part of God’s work in us is to sanctify our perspective so it aligns with his—so we see things the way our heavenly Father does. As we embrace the repetitive rhythms of ministry, we learn to value faithfulness, obedience, joy, and patience over the flash of results.
The Power for Growth
As the Apostle Paul makes clear, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7). Herein lies the paradox of our ministerial futility. We labor and toil—planting, tending, and watering the soil—but we can make nothing grow.
Brothers, this is our calling—to faithfully tend. That’s it. In fact, according to Paul, we are nothing. But understanding the futility of our work is liberating and joyful. We’re called to plant, water, weed, and mow. We have no power to make the seeds sprout or the buds blossom or the blossoms transform into the miracle of fruit. When we release ourselves from the illusion that we can produce fruit, we’re set free to press into the rhythms of ministerial labor, joyfully caring for, serving, and loving God’s people as we wait upon the Lord to bring the growth. If we’re always looking for the award-winning fruit to spring up overnight, we might miss the bud that will one day produce it.CLICK TO TWEET
Look for the Fruit
If we’re going to persevere in ministry, we must look for the fruit—not the grand, epic fruit of the next Great Awakening around every corner, though that may come. We must actively look for the small sprouts and new buds, the glimpses of repentance, faith, and growth among our people. And we must celebrate the work of God in our midst.
God promises that his Word never returns void. If we’re preaching the Word of God, there will be growth. But if we’re always looking for the award-winning fruit to spring up overnight, we might miss the bud that will one day produce it. We’ve been called into rhythms of faithfulness in ministry. It may feel mundane at times, but I believe this says far less about what God is doing and more about our unwillingness to slow down and see the power of God at work in our communities.
Brothers, we cannot produce fruit. We can make nothing grow. But we can slow down and behold the work of God and teach our people to do the same. We can rejoice in his faithfulness to bring forth growth in our lives as he builds up his church by his power and for his glory. While fruit may be slow and sparse at times, we’re part of an eternal garden that will flourish with abundant fruit for eternity.CLICK TO TWEET
This is where our temporal futility meets the joyous hope that is ours in Christ. While fruit may be slow and sparse at times, we’re part of an eternal garden that will flourish with abundant fruit for eternity. We’ve been invited in as laborers to joyfully tend God’s garden, trusting that he will produce the growth.
Written by: Patrick Wimberly