|Vol. 14 No. 6 June 2012||
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
Sometimes as God’s children, we can confuse the simplest of things. I have been blessed to sit at the feet of capable men as they spoke on church growth and building congregations. While their expertise is appreciated, I wonder if many Christians do not make this topic more difficult than it should be. Though I certainly do not want to “over simplify” it, I do believe that God was clear on this subject. The apostle Paul penned, “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour” (1 Corinthians 3:6-8 KJV).
Firstly, Scripture gives the recipe; “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” Our duty and awesome task as Christians is to busy ourselves with planting and watering. It is not our responsibility to worry or bother ourselves with results; that is God’s job! Thus, everything in which we engage ourselves as a congregation must be for the ultimate purpose of planting and watering. Planting and watering take on many shapes. For example, personal invitations, passing along bulletins, tracts or other religious literature, benevolence, passing along our website address, etc. are all means by which we can plant and water. Do not fall into the trap that Satan sets, by asking, “Well, do these do any good?” The answer is “Yes!” These and other ways of planting and watering allow us to please God by doing what we are commanded to do (Matthew 28:18-20). We often measure “the good” by increase, but remember increase is not our job! Let us busy ourselves with planting and watering, and I know for sure God is capable and able to give the increase!
Secondly, Scripture also gives the realization; “So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one…” We cannot plant and water enough to “earn” our way into heaven! When we plant and water, we are simply showing our submission and obedience to God’s will. Those who plant and water are servants (cf. Luke 17:10). Planting and watering should be a delight, not drudgery, for we are serving the great God of heaven and earth, Who gave His Son in our stead! I plant and water, not because I “have” to, but because I “get” to!
Lastly, Scripture gives the reason; “…and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.” There is crown at the end of our labor! Faithfulness results in the crown of life (Revelation 2:10), and faithfulness is seen in planting and watering (cf. Matthew 25:14ff). I believe, in part, planting and watering is a “test” as to how much we really trust God. Do we believe His promises? Do we really believe that God will bless faithful planting and watering? Do we really believe that God is able? Paul closed his first letter to those in Corinth by affirming, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Do we really believe those words?
While I certainly do not have all the answers to church growth, I do believe what God said. If we continually and faithfully plant and water at every opportunity we have, then the stage is set for God to give the increase. However, if we fail to do our part, how can we ever expect God to do His part? God is faithful! Let us plant and water diligently and watch as God richly gives the increase. God will not and cannot lie!
Two men were taking their small children for a stroll through the park on a beautiful evening. The two families met and stopped for a bit of small talk and enjoyable conversation. One of the men was a constant complainer who rarely ever saw anything to smile about, and the other was a loving, Christian man who was always friendly, kind and always smiling. While the children of the two men were playing and having a happy time together, a tall, red haired man walked by. Immediately the children of the complaining man began to make rude and unkind remarks about the stranger. The kind man told the complainer that he should speak to his children about being nice, kind and considerate of others, especially those who were strangers. The complainer retorted that all the children had acted in the same way. The kind man called all of the children together, and asked each of them what they thought of the redheaded stranger who had just walked by. The complainer’s children called him a redheaded bum, the stupidest man they ever saw, and that he looked very lazy with his hazel colored eyes. The Christian man’s children stated that the stranger had smiled kindly at them, and they thought that his red hair looked like a warm open fire. They said that his eyes sparkled like ‘ole Saint Nick, and they reflected again upon his smile, which they said reminded them of their Mother's sweet smile.
What made the difference? First, last and always, the difference is in one’s attitude toward that which his senses recognize. If you fill a child’s life with hate, distrust and discourteous acts, you can expect to reap the exact same thing! Constant criticism, incessant arguing and useless talk will spill over into his life, and his habits will soon be set in that direction. There’s an old adage that “As the twig is bent, so is the tree inclined.” The result is inevitable! A ‘chimney sweeper’ may begin the day in a crisp white uniform, but it does not take long for the soot to make its mark upon him. If the child sees consistent bickering and endless criticism of others, you can expect him to emulate this attitude in life. Burden him with constant insecurity and he will grow up to worry about everything. If one is taught to look upon everything with skepticism, it will be hard to get him to look sensibly and lovingly upon the Lord’s Holy Word. It will just be another adversary to talk ‘down’ and discard.
One can take any normal child and train him in a loving atmosphere, where God is supreme, the parents are loving and kind, and where the rights and feelings of others are thought to be important, and you will have a fertile field where the seeds of kindness, love and friendship will sprout and grow. A loving God, Who taught the principle of ‘reaping what we sow,’ has already established the fact that our seeds of goodness will bring forth other fruits of kindness. It never fails! Brambles do not produce grapes, and grapes will never produce brambles! Everything brings forth after its own kind.
So, what should one do? “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Anything else? “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children…” (Deuteronomy 6:7). This will provide you and your children a good attitude! This will bless you, your children and all who are blessed to know and associate with you.