WEEK 5. THE BLESSINGS OF CROP
Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-15
The Corinthian congregation had their favourite leaders. Some thought that Paul who pioneered the church was the best. Others reckoned that Apollos who came after Paul and who taught them well was the greatest. Yet others believed that their present leaders were the bee’s knees. This penchant for idolising different leaders was causing a great deal of friction in the church and God was not pleased. Paul tells them to worship God who has changed their lives and not their leaders who are merely servants of God doing their allocated jobs (3:5-9).
But Paul doesn’t mean that the work of leaders is inconsequential. Not at all. As ordinary humans, leaders are not to be idolised by their followers, but what they do is vital and must be done well. Leaders have to be very careful how they build.
First, leaders must get the foundation right (5:10-11). This foundation is Jesus and the gospel of grace. We’ve already focused on this.
Second, they must build with the right material. According to Paul, leaders can build with gold, silver, and costly stones, or with wood, hay and stubble. These days we do a lot of building with wood, and very little with gold and silver or hay and stubble, so the point may be a little lost on those of us in the West. Only the very wealthy would use gold in a building project and only the very poor would use hay.
But the key difference between these building materials is not their expense but their reaction to fire. Precious metals are refined by fire, but wood incinerates and feeds the fire. All our building activities (our crop) will be tested by God’s fire. Some will go up in smoke and some will look so much better than we ever imagined. As leaders, we want to build lots with the good stuff.
Paul doesn’t explain what the gold, silver and costly stones represent, but we can pick it up from the rest of this letter. It includes humility (3:18), sacrifice (4:11), grace (4:12-13), sexual purity (6:18), love (13:1-7). We have covered most of these precious metals in the previous leadership foundations of grace, love and heart.
So far, producing a decent crop looks like hard work for leaders. It involves serving God, living close to Jesus, serving people, giving God the credit, using the right materials, making sacrifices, and eventually getting tested. But look at where Paul ends up. If leaders build with the right materials, there is a reward at the end (3:14). This reward is not eternal life (3:15), although our life forever will be incredible. It’s a special eternal blessing for those who serve and lead well, who God uses to produce a crop that lasts.
I’m not sure what this reward looks like. It could be the joy that our crop will keep giving God. It could be seeing the results of our ministry in the people we share eternity with. It could be a greater influence in the new heaven and earth (Matt. 25:21). All I know is that God will reward us eternally for our crop and that’s a huge blessing.
To check how you’re going with Crop, please rate each statement on the following scale:
5 – Strongly Agree; 4 – Agree; 3 – Neither Agree nor Disagree; 2 – Disagree; 1 – Strongly Disagree.
Total the scores. This gives a score out of 25. A score below 20 indicates significant room for growth.
- I am deeply dependent on Jesus in the things I do.
- I willingly discipline my life and make the necessary sacrifices to grow a crop.
- I have a fair idea of my gifts and the mission that God has called me to.
- I have methods and systems in place to make sure that I use my life proficiently.
- Others can see that God is using my life to produce a crop.
We have seen that a good crop will result in blessing for God’s kingdom and eternal blessings for the servants that God has used, but what are the spinoffs for those who are following? How does our crop help us better serve those we lead? If you are effective at what God calls you to do and you produce a crop that others recognise, those you influence will tend to respond in at least two positive ways.
The first response will be admiration and respect for your leadership. It will become obvious to followers that you are doing a good job, that God is using you to make a difference. This shouldn’t result in hero-worship (like it did in Corinth) but in healthy respect for and appreciation of your leadership and effectiveness.
Of course, producing a crop doesn’t mean that everything you do meets with outstanding success. This is never the case. I’ve had as many failures as successes. But gradually the crop will grow and respect will increase. Early in your leadership journey, you are learning and developing and so the crop is often limited. This is healthy for you, but you need to recognise that your influence will be somewhat restricted until your crop increases.
But over time those who follow you will see that you are relying on Jesus, that you are giving it your best shot, and that you are using your gifts well. They will see your growth in crop and be appreciative of your contribution to God’s kingdom. They will see you as someone who can make a difference and who God is using. This will encourage those you influence and will build your reputation as someone worth following. More people will respect you and want to work with you.
The second response will be a sense of achievement for those you lead. They will find that as they follow you, they become participants in producing the crop. Some of your plans together are achieved. Some of your hard work together bears fruit. It gives followers a strong sense of purpose and joy when they find that God uses them to make a difference. This is such a blessing for them.
You see people don’t want to invest continually and work incessantly just to keep the wheels turning, to mark time. They want to make a difference, to achieve something with God. When they can join forces with someone who will help them succeed, they find a great sense of fulfilment, and this increases their eagerness to follow your leadership.
This week I had lunch with an elderly couple who were part of the church that I led 30 years ago. He was a leader in the church and she was on the pastoral team. They shared in the great crop that God produced over those 14 years. Their respect for my leadership and their joy in those times of growth and power have never diminished. God blessed both leaders and followers with a wonderful crop as we tapped into Jesus, worked hard and used our gifts to serve.