CHURCH & MINISTRY
Evangelism is a Joint Effort
Planting, Watering, Growing
By Mark King
I Corinthians 3:6
When I was in high school, I did yard work in the neighborhood. I did the yards for five widow ladies, two elderly couples, and one widower. One of the ladies had an unwanted orange tree growing in her yard — it was about a foot tall. She wanted me to dig it up and said I could have it if I wanted it.
I took it home and planted it in my parents' yard. My dad said it was a wild orange tree and would never amount to anything. Over the years it grew but never bore any fruit. It started crowding out a dogwood tree, and my dad decided to cut it down. My mom insisted that it should be saved since I had planted it there (by this time I had been gone from home for quite some time.)
The tree continued to grow for years until one day my dad called to tell me that the wild "orange" tree had four grapefruit on it. That year it produced four grapefruit — that was all.
The next year, it had about 200. My dad cut down the dogwood to make room for the grapefruit tree. He would harvest all the fruit every year and eat them, give them to friends or juice them — often freezing the juice to have it throughout the year. This tree became a source of joy for the rest of his life and inspired him to plant some other citrus trees in the yard as well.
I planted it. He took care of it. But the fruit was from God, and most unexpected.
I served for a while as the pastor of a small church in Chicago. We dealt with many of the challenges that small churches deal with. One Sunday, our regular musician (who sang, played guitar and piano, etc.) was out so someone else was filling in. She was having a really difficult time. The song portion of the service was pretty rough. One guy in the back of the church was giving me the director's "cut" signal. He wanted me cut the music short and start preaching! We had only one visitor that week and I thought to myself, "she'll never come back." But she did.
She was not a believer, but she began attending regularly and got involved with activities, and friendships developed. Some months, perhaps a year later, she called and said she wanted to meet with me in person and tell me something. When we met in my study, she told me that she had accepted Christ as her savior and that I was the first person she wanted to tell. Then she went on to tell her story.
She had been religiously Catholic and had attended one of the oldest, largest, and grandest churches in Chicago — one with an impressive music program to boot! She was an accountant and had taken a job several years before at an evangelical agency — a ministry to moms. Every week they would have staff devotions and she would hear the moms and employees talking about their relationship with Christ and what God was doing in their lives. She thought, "I don't have any of this in my life." So she continued to listen and observe. During that time she also began to listen to a Christian radio station — one that not only had music, but Bible teaching as well.
As she kept coming back she was exposed weekly to the preaching of the Word and began to understand what she was missing. She felt guilty for not attending the Catholic Church, so she decided to go see her priest and ask him about it. He told her something like, "everybody needs to find God in their own way." She took this permission to keep attending our church.
So, over a period of years, with the involvement of an evangelical ministry who employed her, a Christian radio station which regularly shared the gospel in word and music, a custodian who left a few brochures in a lobby, and a small church with a struggling music ministry but a faithfulness to presenting the Word, this lady came to faith in Christ. Some planted, some watered, but God gave the harvest and it was a thrill to be part of the process. There are many others who gave and prayed to support the ministry, the radio station, and our church who played a part as well.
In this case, I was able to learn the whole story — or at least a good deal of the story. In most cases we will never know the full extent of the harvest until we get to heaven. But, if we are faithful to plant and water as we have opportunity, God will give the increase — and no doubt one day we will be surprised by the harvest.
Image Credit: CherylZ1961; untitled; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Salvation | Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | Ministry-Church | Witnessing-Evangelism
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