“The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops” (2 Timothy 2:6 NIV).
This past week, my church hosted a “leadership summit” where we invited all the leaders of our church (those serving in all the different ministries of the church) to a collective gathering where we would celebrate, encourage, and exhort one another. The pastors chose the passage of Scripture where Paul shares some parting wisdom to his protege Timothy (2 Timothy 2:1-7). I was given 2:6 when Paul references a “hardworking farmer.” Here is the essence of my encouragement and exhortation to our ministry leaders at Hayward Wesleyan:
First of all, I am not a farmer. I have never farmed other than help my wife with our garden. So my observations come from a “rubber-necking” perspective!
But I’m a minister of the Gospel, along with all of us in this room… we’re ministers of the good news of Jesus… and ministry can be a lot like farming.
Here are 5 ways ministry is like farming:
1) A farmer understands the importance and significance of the different seasons.
Spring (planting), summer (cultivation and care), fall (reaping and harvesting), and winter (rest, fallow, odds & ends). This seems to follow the way God designed the world, the year in particular, to work: more light in the summer to work and less light in the winter to rest.
- Ministry can be up and down. When one is going well, another seems to not be doing well and in need of attention. When Youth is going well, Followers needs attention. When Followers is going well, often Youth is struggling.
- This happens in our small groups too, doesn’t it? There are seasons where things seem to be going well, all cylinders are firing. Then there are seasons where you wonder if anyone is growing.
- In my personal life, there are seasons of growth and seasons of fallow.
2) A farmer has to be faithful, diligent, consistent, and hardworking because his livelihood depends on it.
If a farmer doesn’t work, chances are he’ll starve to death. If he doesn’t work, he doesn’t produce anything. Something these young whippersnappers could learn a thing or two from here right?
- Faithful. “firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty” (m-w.com)
- Diligent. “characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort” (m-w.com)
- Consistent. “always acting or behaving in the same way” (m-w.com) over time
- Hardworking. “using a lot of time and energy to do work” (m-w.com)
A minister of the Gospel needs to faithful, diligent, consistent, and hardworking because the Gospel depends on it!
- Faithful. “firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty” (m-w.com)?
- Diligent. “characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort” (m-w.com)?
- Consistent. “always acting or behaving in the same way” (m-w.com) over time?
- Hardworking. “using a lot of time and energy to do work” (m-w.com)?
3) A farmer knows that the purpose of seeds are to bring life.
Seeds are designed to produce organic life. The seed of the gospel is to produce life in Christ. That’s its job… its essence. We need to make sure that we are sharing the right kind of seed (the Gospel of Jesus) and that the right kind of life is being produced in the life of the disciple.
I can hear the objection right now:
“But some people just plain don’t want the seed of the Gospel, or they are messed up seeded-kinda-Gospel people… they are malformed seedlings.”
Yep. Our responsibility as ministers of the Gospel is to sow the seed of Jesus Christ… it is the responsibility of the recipient to cultivate their heart. You know the parable:
- Some seed fell among the hard soil (the seed couldn’t take root and Satan easily plucked it away.
- Some seed fell among rocky soil (it gave birth to life, but withered in the sun because it had no roots).
- Some seed fell among thorny soil (the seed gave birth to life and the plant grew, but was choked out because of the thorns, which were the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desire for other things, cause no fruit from the plant).
- Some seed fell among good soil (which produced life and fruit far exceeding what was originally planted).
4) A farmer can create a fruitful, hospitable environment.
We cannot cultivate a person’s heart (that’s the Holy Spirit’s job), but we can cultivate a fruitful, hospitable environment (that’s what the community of God’s people, wherever and whenever they meet is).
Surely a farmer does not allow a semi-truck to drive through her fields. Surely a middle school dodgeball game isn’t going to be played in my wife’s garden. A minister of the Gospel can create and cultivate an environment that allows for the germination of faith and an arena where that young faith can be nurtured, cared for, and challenged to withstand all that nature (and life) throws at it.
- Are we listening to people?
- Are we answering the right questions and addressing the right issues in people’s lives?
- Are we too nice or maybe too harsh with people?
- Do we give people encouragement and challenge in the appropriate doses that they need?
5) The farmer is the first to experience/see the fruit of her labor.
The farmer gets to be the first to taste the lusciousness of the newest strawberry in the patch. The freshness of the first ear of corn. The smell of wheat in the field. Eventually, the farmer’s fruit is shared among many people, but the farmer is on the front line of growth and gets to both witness and appreciate the fruit of her labor.
As ministers of the Gospel, we get to be on the front line and both witness and appreciate God transformative work in people’s hearts and lives. This is why we do what we do: to see the seed of the word of God planted in the fertile hearts of people and the production of much fruit.