Gospel Gazette Online
Vol. 12 No. 12 December 2010
Page 10

Church Work Is Like Gardening

Mike Benson

Mike BensonChurch work is like gardening (2 Timothy 2:6) without the bib overalls and straw hat. The seed is the Word (Luke 8:11). Preachers are patient laborers (James 5:7), seeking to bring their produce to harvest (Matthew 9:37-38; 13:30). Making a good garden is dependent upon several factors – the right seed, proper fertilizer, sufficient water, warm sunshine, insect control and periodic weeding, etc. (1 Corinthians 3:6).

Joel Neal Pinion, my old gardening buddy over in White, Georgia, used to laugh and say, “Mike, growing a garden isn’t just about pulling weeds.” His humor had a point. Having spent considerable time in my own vegetable garden and having observed other growers and their produce, I can attest to the truthfulness of his statement. Pulling weeds is but one aspect of what a gardener must perform.

Respectfully, I wish some of my fellow “gardeners” could learn that lesson. To read from the pen of some of my brethren, you would think that weed pulling (i.e., exposing false teachers and false teaching) is a preacher’s sole responsibility; it is the Gospel. Virtually every issue of their bulletins or papers is devoted to “weed-pulling” and little – if anything – is written from the vantage point of optimism or encouragement.

Please don’t misunderstand; left unchecked, the weeds of false doctrine can choke a congregation and must be pulled up (Titus 1:10-11; Romans 16:17-18; 2 John 9-11; Matthew 7:16-18) in order to ensure the garden’s growth (2 Peter 2:2; 3:18).

However, a preacher-writer who devotes 98% of his energies to condemning wrong will never produce the kind of soul-harvest the Master Husbandman requires (Hebrews 5:14). It is impossible to grow a garden by simply pulling up weeds. Yes, weeds can choke plants and rob the soil of important nutrients, but if the full range of garden tending efforts is neglected, the herbage will eventually wither and die. Even if somehow it survives this imbalanced treatment, it will be incapable of yielding fruit (John 15:16; Romans 7:4).

Where are the articles about the joy of Christian service? Where are the lessons about the blessings of our fellowship? Where are the sermons addressing the good things about the Lord’s church? Where are the literary treaties on what is positive about the Christian life? Where are the essays concerning basic, Bible doctrine and how to be saved? (If a preacher isn’t careful, he can prefer condemning to saving, Jonah 3-4; Luke 15:25-32). The Bible says the “sum” [not some] of God’s word is truth (Psalm 119:160 ASV). It is not a matter of “either or” brethren, but “both and.”

The sole purpose of teaching through the printed page and Internet should not be merely to denounce and attack denominational error and/or liberalism. This is to be but a part of the whole commission we are to fulfill (Matthew 28:20). Paul himself said that his gardening efforts involved a complete balance. “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27; cf. 2 Timothy 3:16).

Those of us who preach through the printed media and Internet might do well to heed the advice of one Christian educator of the past who challenged his young students to leaf through their Bibles and underline those passages which they seldom or never addressed and then preach on them. Note Paul’s example, “…I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you…” (Acts 20:20).

Joe Neal was right; good gardening requires a comprehensive approach. It’s not just about pulling weeds. May God help us to keep this in mind as we declare the wonderful word of God.

Wisdom's Corner

Equal to Defiled Dust

Mark McWhorter

Mark McWhorterMatthew 10:14 reads, “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” Many of the Jews in Bible times believed that the very dust of Palestine was holy when compared to the dust of other countries. They divided land within the boundary of Palestine into ten ascending degrees of sanctity. The Most Holy Place in the Temple was the most sacred, but everything ‘outside the land’ was considered darkness and death. If a little dust from another land touched anything in the land, the object was considered unclean and defiled. That object was to be shaken free from such dust and ritually cleaned, or completely destroyed.

The verse above is part of what Jesus told the twelve apostles as He was sending them out to the Israelites to preach about the coming kingdom. The apostles were told to stay in places that were open to their teaching. Once they had completed preaching to that city, they were to move on to another city. However, if a city or house refused to hear their preaching, they were to leave. As they were leaving they were to shake the dust off of their feet.

The apostles were to give this signal as a message that those refusing to listen could not miss. Those individuals would know that the apostles were telling them they were of no more value than unclean and defiled dust. The same type message is given by Jesus again in Matthew 18:17. This time it was regarding an Israelite who transgressed against another Israelite. If the offending person did not correct the situation when properly approached, that person was to be considered as a heathen.

In Acts 13:51, we read about Paul and Barnabas putting this principle into practice. They were in Antioch of Pisidia preaching. The Gentiles were receptive, but the Jews were stirred up by the religious leaders. These people incited the Jews to throw Paul and Barnabas out of the region. Paul and Barnabas shook the dust off their feet.

I know you want to be of more value than defiled dust. Read and study your Bible. Then, obey it. Make sure you are holy, and if any of this is hard to understand, ask an adult to help you.

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