My one year anniversary of blogging came and went this last week. I can most definitely say this past year has brought some surprises, some disappointments, and a lot of things to add to my “stuff I didn’t know I needed to learn” list. I have debated back and forth for a few weeks on the best way to commemorate this blogging milestone. I landed on the idea of sharing with you my top five favorite posts. These are not necessarily the most popular posts, but they are the ones I am most proud of.
If you are a regular reader you know that I don’t post every day, but for the next five days I will. One post a day leading up to my #1 favorite post of all time, I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I enjoyed writing them!
Favorite Post #5: What Season Is It?
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) 1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.
I am about to make one of the most humbling statements any spiritual leader can make. Are you ready, here it comes…
My church and my youth ministry are both in a sowing season.
I had two separate conversations last week, one with a youth worker and one with a senior pastor, and both of them were relieved to hear me say that. To be able to admit it, not be ashamed of it, and not just give the token “things are fine, we are growing” pad answer.
The truth is you cannot always be in a harvest season, but for spiritual leaders (especially youth workers) it is very hard to admit if we aren’t. In Mark chapter 11 Jesus has a little run in with a certain fig tree:
Mark 11:12 – 14 (NIV) 12The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.
My question is this: what made Jesus so upset? Obviously he didn’t hate trees—but he was teaching his disciples a very important lesson. Jesus was upset because the tree was not being true to the season it was in. If a fig tree has leaves, it is supposed to have fruit. But “it was not the season for figs.” The tree was faking it, there was no fruit but it wanted everyone that looked at it to think there was. It couldn’t admit it was not harvest season.
To state it bluntly: if you or your church or ministry is not in a harvest season, don’t try and fake it, just admit that you aren’t. Believe me; I know how hard it is to do that. But it is OK to not always be in a harvest season, as long as we do the right things when we aren’t.
What do I need to do once I admit I am in a sowing season?
I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few things God has shown me as I walk through my own sowing season:
Seek God more than you ever have before
Reading scripture, prayer, solitude, fasting… All of the above-at the same time!
Jeremiah 5:24 – 25 (NIV) 24…‘Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.’ 25 Your wrongdoings have kept these away; your sins have deprived you of good.
During those times ask God for wisdom on what needs to be done or changed to bring on the next harvest. It may be something that needs to change about you. It may be something that needs to change in your church or ministry environment. Just be open to the truth when God speaks it (and remember God speaks in a still small voice, so you have to slow down to hear it)
I am not a farmer, but I do understand what has to be done in the times between harvests. If you don’t plow, cultivate, fertilize, and plant new seeds the next harvest will never arrive.
Proverbs 20:4 (NIV) 4 A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.
Once God speaks to you about what needs to be done or changed to bring on the next harvest, you have to actually do it. Make the sacrifice, have the hard conversation, do whatever it is that you have been putting off. Often times we know what needs to be done, we just drag our feet until it is too late or too much damage has been done. Do the work God needs you to do to move forward.
Keep going and give God your best no matter what
2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV) 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
Even if you are not in a harvest season, God still needs you to be faithful. The people that make the biggest spiritual strides during your sowing season will be the leadership during the next harvest. Anyone can be a good pastor and/or leader when everything they touch or do is turning to gold, be an even better pastor/leader when things aren’t going right.
The encouraging thing is that in all three of these passages, it implies that another harvest is right around the corner. I have faith and trust in God that he will bring another season of harvest, and until he does I will keep trying to do the right things for the season I am in.
Last night we started a new teaching series on the book of Ecclesiastes. Since I have been spending a bit of time reading and studying this book, I came across this passage and I felt like it jumped out and bit me. I don’t know if you ever have that happen to you when you read scripture, but I sure hope you do.
Ecclesiastes 11:9, 12:1 (NIV) 9 You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment… 1 Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”.
As a youth worker these verses provide guidance and clarity to what God needs us to do for these teenagers. Here are a couple thoughts that hit me:
1. It is normal for students to “follow they ways of their heart and whatever their eyes see.”
It is easy to get frustrated when I look at facebook posts, hear about weekend activities, or have to sort out the next teenage drama rumor fest. Sometimes the temptation is to bang my head against the wall and throw in the towel because they just keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Don’t they ever listen to the messages we teach?!?! As an adult it is easy to look down on them and their decisions, until I remember my teenage years…
2. Happiness and Joy need to be central to our ministry.
Because of the frustration I have to be careful to not smack them in the face with scripture, or always tear them down about how bad they are doing. There are certainly times when “Christian discipline” needs to be carried out, but not in every lesson. If they feel guilty every time they come to church they might not keep coming. I am not suggesting you water down scripture, but if you give a hard hitting message one week, follow it up with a feel good one the next week. Use games and humor and relationship building (even fun just for fun sake) to keep an overall feeling of happiness and joy while you teach the hard hitting truth.
3. My main role is to help them “remember their Creator” as they learn life lessons.
It is very important to keep a grasp on what my role is in their life. It is not my job to be their parent. It is not my job to save them from themselves. It is not my job to modify their behavior to please the church leadership. My job is to be one more person, among a team of adults in their life, to point them back to Christ every chance I get. I accomplish this by showing them what a life-long commitment to Christ looks like day in and day out. By loving the way Christ loved. By teaching them the truths of God’s word. And by letting God do what only God can do. I can’t save them. I can’t transform them. Only God can do that, and sometimes I have to do my part and then get out of the way.
As I start another calendar year as a youth worker, I have asked God some hard questions. It is easy to get discouraged or focused on the wrong things. God lead me to this passage and answered some of my questions, I hope it was as helpful to you too.
What do you see in this passage that I missed? How has God spoken to you through it?