Looking back, before this church planting calling, I relied primarily on my own skills, abilities, personality, and hard work in ministry. I believed that, based on what I did, I could help people understand truth or make growth happen in their lives.
When we moved here, we knew no one. Shockingly, people we met didn't automatically fall in line nor was there a stampede to our new little church. My skills, abilities, personality, and hard work barely made a ripple in the landscape of the city. People were almost wary of us: You moved here to start a church? (Oh, you think we're all wicked here and you came to save us) A church in your house? (Ah, yes, a cult!)
All the things I had relied on (myself) failed me immediately. People were not flocking to us because of us. And that's when I really started getting the lesson of the sower and the grower:
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 1 Cor 3:6-7
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5
I have read 1 Corinthians 3 many times, but recently, in rereading it, I saw something I hadn't seen before. (1 Cor 3 talks about building on the foundation of JC well so that we will receive a reward in heaven) I have always considered the works that I do with correct motivation and concerning eternal things (people, the Word) to be what will earn a reward in heaven. But when I read it last, I considered something else. According to the sower/grower, branch/vine passages, I cannot make transformation happen in anyone's life. That's God's territory. So it seems I can't earn a reward for something out of my control. The way that I trust God and have faith in His ability to bring transformation is the only thing I can control. And therein lies my reward. For faith! So instead of worrying and working myself to death in my pursuit of people, more of my energy and thought now go to prayer, abiding, and trusting and, of course, following the Lord's lead when He asks things of me.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith--the salvation of your souls.