Farmers are anything but rock stars. They get up early and work. They sow, plow, toil, and protect. In all of it, they beg God for rain.
That’s a good description of ministry. Ministry is glorious, but it’s not glamorous. Like farming, most of our work goes unseen; it demands attention and endurance. And at the end of the day, we’re desperate for God to give the growth (1 Cor. 3:7).
Often God does send rain, and those are rich and joyful seasons. Is there anything greater than seeing people come to faith, grow in holiness, and be equipped and deployed for ministry? Ministry is challenging, but by God’s grace it also can be joyful and rewarding. Like elsewhere in our Christian experience, it carries both sorrow and joy, pain and pleasure, trial and triumph.
When we see fruit, though, we must never go around boasting about what “we did.” (I’ve never seen a farmer “bragtweet” about the number of pumpkins he harvested.) No, our boast and joy must be in the Lord, who graciously uses us in his harvest field.
Farming in Christian Celebrity Culture
But sometimes we are tempted to want more, aren’t we? In the United States, the pastor as celebrity is a real issue. Some people will only come to church if a particular pastor is preaching. Conferences are filled with speakers who draw a crowd. While not all famous preachers intend to perpetuate this culture, and conference designers often have good intentions, the fact remains that many aspiring pastors want to be just like these prominent figures. Imitating godly leaders is right and good, but often it’s not godliness that compels aspiring leaders; it’s the celebrity and fame they crave.
Imitating godly leaders is right and good, but often it’s not godliness that compels aspiring leaders; it’s the celebrity and fame they crave.
So what happens when new church planters, entrenched in celebrity culture, begin to evangelize in order to establish a new congregation—only to find it takes years to see results? Many give up. They fantasize about doing something else. Some take their eyes off Jesus and self-medicate, looking to porn or some other escape.
If fame is the goal instead of faithfulness, the planter is a walking disaster zone.
We have a need far greater than another 20 spectacular conference speakers. We need millions of faithful, Bible-teaching, gospel-proclaiming, people-loving farmers. And we need them all over the world—hard-working pastors who will consistently plant gospel seeds, keep their hand to the plow, and beg God to send rain.
Hard, Hope-Filled Work
Like farming, gospel ministry is often unseen, usually slow, and always exhausting. But it’s worth it because the gospel is (2 Tim. 1:8; 2:8–9). Given our gospel mission, we must endure. And given our gospel hope, we can endure.
Given our gospel mission, we must endure. And given our gospel hope, we can endure.
According to 2 Timothy 2, we can endure as we are strengthened “in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (v. 1). Paul urges Timothy to live on the gospel—that is, on the enabling grace that flows from our union with Jesus. He doesn’t say, “Be strengthened by your own power and resolve.” That would be useless. Rather, he says, “Be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ.” Only the grace of Jesus empowers all the exhortations that follow.
Paul then proceeds: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel” (v. 8) Think about that. Paul is saying, “Don’t forget Jesus!”
When your tank is empty, remember the tomb is empty. The empty tomb points upward to the occupied throne.
It’s easy to forget why we’re farming. It’s easy to grow weary when our gaze is locked our circumstances. When your tank is empty, remember the tomb is empty. The empty tomb points upward to the occupied throne.
Ministry isn’t glitzy and glamorous in the eyes of the world, but it’s glorious in the eyes of God. One day, when we see Jesus Christ, the real Superstar, we will be glad we never stopped toiling, sowing, plowing, and praying.
- The Wonder of Church Planting (Tony Merida)