A lot of the work we do following Jesus makes us question whether we are even doing anything. We do not always see the full results of what we do, or any results at all.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus uses agricultural metaphors in his parables. This is apt for a people who probably had a lot more farmers than web designers, but it also well describes the work of a disciple. Sometimes we are like the vineyard owners, tending carefully to our vines, and hiring more workers as the day goes on. Now that’s a great feeling in ministry!
More often than not, however, we resemble the farmer who throws seed about – some of it landing in fertile soil, some on rocky ground, some on the path and some in the thorns. This seed-sower seems to keep moving, relying on the natural soil, sun and water to do their work. The seeds grow, wither, choke or get eaten, but the parable does not mention that the sower is there to view the results.
Likewise, we see the apostles in Acts sowing seeds of faith, and then moving on to other individuals, towns and communities. Phillip gets swept up by the Holy Spirit from one grand journey to the next. We see letters from Paul to places he has planted churches, and is clearly hearing back from them as well, but even Paul does not get to see the real results of his ministry, being executed before the church really takes off.
Most of our work is like that. Even when we get to see some of the seeds we planted take root and begin to bloom, we rarely get to see the ways God multiplies those seeds long after we have planted them.
But think about all the people who helped grow you into who you are today. How many of them are still around and/or know what you are up to or the beautiful plant you became because of their seed-planting and nurture? It doesn’t make that loving work any less valuable for not always seeing the results. Trust and know that when you answer God’s call, and plant the seeds of God’s love in the world, there will be much fruit.
Daniel Migliore’s great book on Presbyterian theology, Faith Seeking Understanding, takes its title from Anselm’s famous phrase about the act of faith in Christian life. As leaders, we often seek understanding and answers, so we love when we see results of our work. However, we do not ever reach perfect understanding of God, and we will not always see the results of our faithful action. Leadership in the Christian tradition requires us to let that go, and trust.
We act because of faith, and we act with faith. The rest is up to God. So, let’s plant and watch God’s garden grow!