Written by Robbie Cansler
From her column Kingdom Come
Winter is my favorite season. You didn’t misread that, I love snow, cold, and all things cozy. I love Advent and Christmas, hot drinks, and roaring fires.
Even so, I begin to get restless towards the end of February and the beginning of March. I live in a region of the United States where March is very much still winter. The lack of sunlight begins to get to me, and I begin to dream about days at the beach, long hikes, and fresh air. When it seems like I can’t take it anymore, I walk outside and begin to see green shoots in our garden beds. Spring is coming.
Someone, years ago, had the foresight and wisdom to plant flower bulbs in the garden beds around our parsonage and church. Every spring they begin to grow, and we enjoy a variety of flowers from early spring until late summer.
We do very little to ensure their survival. We weed the beds at times, and sometimes divide up the bulbs that grow out of control. We water them when the days get especially dry in the middle of July, but other than that, we just sit back and admire their beauty.
Every year when the flowers begin to grow, they remind me of 1 Corinthians 3:6-9, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
As a church planter and pastor this is an important reminder for me, that while I may be planting seeds, or watering flowers planted by someone else, it is God who, in fact, makes things grow. Often I think the entire life of the church and the life of those in the church are my responsibility and mine alone. I forget to take moments to sit and enjoy the beauty of God’s handiwork. He has made, and continues to grow beautiful things. I can do my task of planting or watering, whatever the case may be, but I can also take my hands off a bit and rest in the knowledge and appreciate the miracle of the ways God works in people’s lives.
I can’t take credit for the amazing transformation in the lives of the people of my church any more than I can take credit for the beautiful purple iris in my flower beds. This is important for me to remember, that while I play an important role, God is the one who grows beauty in the hearts of His people.
Still, we pastors and church leaders often sense the weight of winter in our churches, feeling that it is our job to do everything. We feel pressure to see our churches grow in the number of people in the pews and in finances. We feel like we need to plant, water, grow, and reap. We wear many hats, and occasionally we try to wear them all at the same time. These verses remind us though that it is not our job to make things grow. Growing Christ-likeness in people is the work of God.
This doesn’t mean we don’t have work to do. We have the tremendous responsibility of planting seeds, watering, and tending the fragile shoots we begin to see in the lives of people. We do what we can to provide good and healthy soil, but we need to lay down many of our hats, and trust God.
Like Paul, we must work together with others who are gifted in unique ways to do the work of the church, faithfully remove our hands, and trust that God is working His will in the lives of the people we are called to love.
So instead of fretting, worrying about who did what or if we have done enough, let’s take time to appreciate the signs of spring. Ministry is exhausting with many dark and cloudy days, but often there is growth hidden beneath weeds and leaves—minute signs of new life. Let’s look for that growth and celebrate it. Let’s breathe in the fresh air and take time to rejoice in the beauty of something growing, even if it’s small and has to push through the snow like crocus in early spring. Let’s celebrate the God who is forever acting in lives, even in the hardest places, and take time to sit back and admire the beauty of it all. Our hearts, our lives, and our churches will be better for it.
Rev. Robbie Cansler is an urban church planter/substitute public school teacher who serves the Mission Church of the Nazarene in Hammond, Indiana.