I love machines. They are so straightforward. If you have a problem, there is normally a procedure of troubleshooting that helps you pinpoint the problem. Even though machines can cause problems, at least you can find where the problem lies. If a machine breaks, you buy replacement parts or perhaps even replace the entire machine. When a machine is working smoothly you can pump out our projects at beautiful rates. Plug in the pieces, give the commands, and sit back and watch it work!
Many have tried to parallel ministry with a machine. Some people believe that ministry can be mechanized into a robotic process. Read this book, take this class, serve in this capacity and after 2 years you have a mature Christian! Wow, how exciting, it’s that easy: plug n play; set it and forget it! Sadly, people buy into this logic and end up spiritually suffering. Either people come out as mere parrots of doctrine and are left floundering in their pursuit of sanctification. It is sad because an improper understanding of ministry can lead to the detriment of God’s people.
It would be easy and great if ministry were like a machine, but it is not. People aren’t as mechanical as we think. There are no hard timelines for spiritual growth and desire. Christians grow at different rates at different times in their life. Christians even grow in different ways (e.g., as they learn Scripture, undergo life experiences, and ministry).
Instead of a machine, I think there is a much closer parallel to a garden or farm. People are living organisms and each one may require special attention. Each plant may even require lifelong attention. There is no period in a Christian’s discipleship where they can confidently “graduate” outside of their need for discipleship or spiritual growth. Granted, there are times when believers can reach stable points of maturity, but even in maturity we need the help of others.
Gardens and farms require hard work. They require attention and care. This is probably why the Bible will parallel agriculture to the work of ministry (1 Cor 3:5–7). This should serve as a reminder for all Christians who are labeled as a royal priesthood (1 Pet 2:9). How are you viewing your own pursuit of discipleship? Don’t view yourself as a machine and don’t grow comfortable by completing spiritual tasks on your checklist. Realize that your love and pursuit of Christ needs to be cultivated like a plant in a farm and not a trinket in a factory.
This should also challenge us to think about how we related to those around us. Do we view others as “projects” to be fixed? Do we try and mechanize our relationships in order to produce a desired result or product? We should seek to look at those around us with compassion and care. There should be a desire to see a love for Christ cultivated within their hearts.
Please, join in on the work on the farm! I think I once heard Someone say, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Matt 10:37b–38).