1 Corinthians 3:5–11 (ESV) What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Can you imagine what the church might look like if we did ministry like this? If we simply saw ourselves as a small part of a much bigger picture, a gear in a much greater mechanism. We would come to the place where God has called us and we could be used in the capacity He as called us to be used. Too often it seems we step into a new church, or ministry position, and we feel compelled to level everything to the ground and start over. We want to give “our church” a new direction, (which it may very well need) but often the new direction is wrapped up in our identity rather than in His. Those new to ministry, at times, act like God just showed up when they did; and those who’ve been doing ministry for years act like God left when they did. We forget that God was at our church long before we were and He will be there long after we go. Sometimes we forget…it is not you who supports the root, but the root that supports you (Romans 11:18). This is why Paul warns the church at Corinth “let each one take care how he build upon it”
When doing ministry, whether it’s pastoring a church, having a bible study, or just building relationships in your community, we should see it as building on a much bigger whole. We need to recognize that God has been working in that church, person, organization long before we ever arrived. Which means there are going to be positive aspects to your predecessors work, and not so positive aspects. Build upon the positives and slowly change the weaknesses. This will create a much more sustainable ministry dynamic. It won’t be stamped with our identity or culture, but with Christ’s identity and His Kingdom. The more we create an atmosphere of collaboration, the greater our work will be for the Lord.
In Revelation chapter 2 we see a panoramic view of the church. From the beginning of the Christian era, to today. Several points that jump out at me are: 1. Jesus loves each of the churches the way they are, they are not rejected on account of their defects. He always has something positive to say about each of the churches—even Thyatira. Which tells me there are strengths and weaknesses in every generation since Adam. 2. None of the churches has the full picture of Jesus, we need all 7 churches to get the full picture. Which means we need to learn from each other in order to get the full picture of Christ’s Kingdom. No generation has done everything perfect, because Jesus still has not yet returned. We need to recommit to the Gospel commission. Make disciples of Jesus. We need to build upon the Cornerstone in a collaborative movement that will change the world. God did not show up when you did, or leave when you left. The Good News is it is not you who supports the root, but the root that supports you.