A number of us pastors are at a prayer retreat at Cannon Beach. I love to get away to spend time with God and encourage one another! It’s a joy and privilege to be together in this way.
One of our pastors mentioned how we “must stay in our lane” meaning that it is too easy for us to criticize others or compare ourselves. When God seems to be blessing another church while ours struggles, it’s hard to understand.
Years ago I read an article by Joseph Lalonde. He shared that one of the reasons we “look over the fence” is that we are no longer tending our own garden. We are distracted. We’ve lost the vision and focus in our own ministries and taken our eyes off what we were called to do! This distraction is deadly if we allow it to continue.
Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, compared the church to a garden. He put it this way, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plant, but it was God who made the plant grow” 1 Corinthians 3:6 (GN) Yes, it is only God that can grow a church, but there are some things we MUST do. Having a good garden takes work. Sometimes backbreaking work. So what can we do?TEND YOUR GARDEN
If you are pastor or leader, you’ve been given the responsibility to oversee the church or ministry. There were times I didn’t like that weight of leadership, but as long as you are the pastor, you’re it! In our Pacific Conference we even call it “assignments.” You’re assigned to a church to lead it. Therefore, it is crucial that you shift your focus from what others are doing to focusing on what you can do where you are at.
Look for the ineffective programs or directives that aren’t creating momentum. Remove the things that aren’t producing. One church in our Conference stopped all programs except Sunday Worship with the goal of adding back only ministries that had a clear purpose and were effective.
Lalonde wrote, “Weeds take up valuable soil and nutrients that could be used for beautiful plants. Poor performing programs and directives do the same thing. They take up resources from your organization and make it harder for the programs that are working to succeed.” Be willing to pull weeds.
WATER THE SOIL
Once you’ve pulled the weeds, don’t forget to add water and nutrients. One essential is preaching the Word. “Biblical Faithfulness” is the first area listed in our Core Commitments as a Pacific Conference. It reads this way:
We value the Bible, as God’s Holy Word, which we look to as the authority for our beliefs, the guide for living, and motivation for mission. It contains absolute truth and infallibly reveals God’s plan for our lives. We are committed to faithfully and accurately preach the Word and apply it to our daily lives.
The Word of God waters the church. It is not our words that give life, it is God’s words. In the Bible we find God’s voice and direction for our lives.
Another way to water is a clear vision. Others need to know why they are doing what they are doing! Never get tired of sharing the purpose and direction of the church. Vision leaks. Keep sharing it until you are tired of hearing yourself share it and then share it some more!
PLANT NEW SEEDS
After weeds have been pulled and the soil has been watered, look for places to plant new seeds. You’ve got to replace the old with new. Think process, not programs. Look for ministries that fit your purpose and might be more effective than the previous ones. Look for initiatives that may grab people’s attention. Be willing to plant again.
PULL MORE WEEDS
The weeding never stops (Have you noticed that in a garden?). After you’ve implemented new strategies and ministries, you’ll see not all of them will be successful. Never be afraid to pull and replace. Lalonde says, “You’ll have to clean out the things that are taking up space and are ineffective. You’ll have to till the ground and find freshness. You’ll have to replant and bring in new life. You’ll have to continue pulling weeds.”
BEFORE YOU GO…
Where are you looking? Do you “tend to” the garden you’ve been given charge over or do you tend to look over the fence to see what others are doing? Why? How can we encourage and support one another to tend to our own gardens? I’ve love to hear from you!