Mark 4:26-27 “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts; he knows not how.” The Parable of the Growing Seed (ESV)
I was reminded of this passage in a Dallas Willard video recently. Willard said it saved his ministry as a young pastor. It helped him learn to stop trying to get people to behave in a certain kind of way. It taught him, as he puts it to, “work hard, live in the Kingdom, and let God take care of the rest.”
Each week as I work with people and prepare for Sundays and midweek responsibilities, it is easy for me to prepare with my congregation’s issues in mind. I think about some group of people who come and are dealing with complicated situations. Or I get caught up thinking about the group of people who call our church home but attend once every 4-6 weeks. Or even worse, I get caught up in thinking about those who have left, or who tease with coming back. And then my work gets filtered through the lens of, “how can we do things differently to fix all that!”
When I do that, it is as if I am trying to tie together all the loose strings in an unfinished tapestry that has fallen out of the loom. It’s impossible, and I’m going to drive myself nuts trying. (Not to mention what I’ll do to those around me.)
The biblical job description for pastor/shepherd does not include, “fix everything.” I have plenty of biblical responsibilities to people, but Willard is right. The Parable of the Growing Seed tells me that I ought to work hard, according to the time and circumstances given to me by God. Then it teaches me that in the Kingdom of God, the seed of the gospel grows without needing my help. The sower doesn’t know how it grows. But God does. God has arranged the circumstances that grow the seeds (or in some cases, don’t grow the seeds).
As a result, a great deal is lifted off of this pastor’s shoulders. I’ll try to work harder and smarter, pray more, live in the glories of the Kingdom of God so I can act as a good guide into that land, and let God do the rest.