Saturday, May 3, 2008

Praying & Plowing

“Praying is good, but praying doesn’t plow the field.” -Amish saying.

Last week I did the message in our church and used that saying. I jokingly said, “It’s my new life verse.” A week later it may not be a joke. I think for everything that’s off-course in my life and in my church—this phrase hits between the eyes.

I just started in on Pop Goes the Church and Tim Stevens mentioned how most churches pray about evangelism but that’s about it. And I thought, “…Praying doesn’t plow the field.”

In our church we’re underdeveloped in helping people mature in their faith and in reaching out to people in need outside our stylish walls. “…Praying doesn’t plow the field.”

I’m unhappy with my weight and habits. “…Praying doesn’t plow the field.”

And the flipside is true. For everything that’s right in my life, family and church, there’s been plowing.

Our church is a great place to bring people who don’t go to church. “We’ve plowed the field.”

Our church staff is authentic; sometimes painfully so. “We’ve plowed the field.”

I love Sandra—she’s an unbelievable wife. “We’ve plowed the field.” (That’s supposed to read as a “G” rated metaphor, Monty.)

Aside from physically, I’m pretty happy with who & where I am. “I’ve plowed the field.” Boy, have I plowed a lot of manure...

And there’s the first part of the saying, “Praying is good.” Anyone disagree? But there are days when we wrongly think it’s easier to plow. Maybe it’s the tangibility of plowing vs. the mystery of praying.

We’re working on a strategic plan with a team at our church. This is a new process for us. We’re moving in the dark. I just ordered a book on strategic planning from Amazon. I think collectively we’re plowing more than praying.

I think the key to, “Praying is good, but praying doesn’t plow the field,” is embracing how much God wants to be in it. I feel He wants to be in the first part all the time. Everyday. Everything. Every challenge. Every great thing. Everything.

And I feel He doesn’t want us to plow alone. When I picture myself with my hands on a plow (huge stretch---I’m a city boy with uncalloused hands), I think the right image is God’s bigger, stronger hands on top of mine, His taller stature shadowing me, and He’s not sweating.

It’s easy to ignore the relationship of plowing—to feel alone in the grinding out of life and our job—even a church job. Why do I ignorantly think of work as a solo task, while relating with God summons images of me in a quiet room alone.

My best memories of times with my kids are not pictures of sitting in the living room talking. They’ve been in the context of doing—“plowing the field.” So why do I think God and me should be so different?

“Praying is good, but praying doesn’t plow the field.”