Matthew 9:37-38 – Then [Jesus] said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." (NIV)
Early in June I planted my garden. On an extremely hot and humid Monday, I sowed potatoes, beans, peas, spinach, and radishes. Then I prayed for rain. For more than a week nothing seemed to be happening, except that the opportunistic weeds sprouted almost the next day! The garden bed was apparently barren — nothing but dirt, the odd stone, or clumps of soil. Those pesky weeds continued to sap the soil of its nutrients. Working a garden in the heat of the day, I longed for a cool drink of fresh spring water and a dip in a spring-fed lake, but I went back to tending a seemingly barren garden.
Then the miracle happened. The sprouts appeared. First, the radishes — shallow rooted, peppery hot, and spicy. Next, one by one, came the peas — fragile and succulent. Then came the beans — delicate at first, sturdy at maturity. One poked its head up here, another there, a third away over yonder. But nothing spectacular: just one here or there.
Then the rain came. One morning, I looked out the upstairs window to see a fully sprouted, green, growing garden. It was lush, verdant and productive. The seed had appeared dead, but within it was the DNA of life.
Growing a church is like growing a garden. Some days, it seems as if nothing is happening. Some days, it feels barren and dry. Some days, it's like planting on a hot, muggy day. Growing a church during the barren times makes one thirst for vibrant worship, but one keeps on praying, working, and serving.
People come to church like plants sprouting in the garden. They come one by one, asking for help and a relationship. One day, I look up to see them walk in. My heart skips a beat. I am conscious of only one emotion: joy.
The church often appears to be dying, but within is the Holy Spirit — Lord and giver of life. The living water of the Holy Spirit deluges God's family, and growth happens by leaps and bounds — not just renewal and revival, but resurrection. Abundant life. A growing, productive, happy church. The largess of God's love.
When Christ looked out over the fields, he saw a crop past ready for harvesting. When I look over our empty pews, I know the seed is in the ground.
It's a lot like growing a garden.
Prayer: Creator God, thank you for all you have done for your garden. In Jesus' name, we ask that we might be faithful gardeners tending it as you have cared for us. Help us to look beyond the barrenness to see the miracle of your growth. Amen.