I can still remember one painful lesson from my time as a pastor. While the pastor of a church in Orlando, Florida, I spent hours and hours in prison ministry. I assumed that God would help my church grow as I spent time ministering to inmates and their families. I thought that inmate's families would come to my church and then the inmates would also come when they were released from prison. I further thought that if I ministered to those whom nobody wanted, God would send the kind of people to the church that anyone wanted.
It never happened that way.
I finally realized the futility of my strategy when we had one last inmate stay with a family in the church, only to see him leave and rip them off as he left town. This had happened many times, but I stubbornly stayed the prison ministry course as a means of church growth. At that point, , however, I was angry with that man and disgusted with the lack of progress in the church. As I was praying one day, it occurred to me the flaw in my plan. I saw that I had been planting wheat and expecting corn, and I had no right to be angry (although I was). Let me explain what I mean.
YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW
I had been sowing heavily into the prison ministry and the prison ministry was prospering. The church ministry was not. If I had spent the time on the church that I had spent in prisons, the church would have grown as I had wanted it to. I saw that my strategy was based on wishful thinking and not sound principles. It was like a farmer planting wheat seeds and expecting a corn crop. That would be a ridiculous plan and, quite frankly, so was my church growth strategy. It was doomed to failure from the outset and I was the last one to find out.
So what's the lesson here for you?
SOUNDS SO SPIRITUAL
The problem is that some strategies sound so spiritual, but they aren't. There are those who say that if you serve someone else's vision, God will give you your own. That sounds spiritual, but I'm afraid it's another example of sowing wheat and expecting corn.
I've known some pastors who have taken care of other's children, while expecting God to take care of their own. It sound spiritual but it's a flawed strategy.
I've seen people give their money away, expecting to receive it back it in abundance. They are playing a spiritual lottery, hoping that their next gift will hit the jackpot and bring a big return. They don't invest their money wisely and consequently give more and more out of desperation.
There are those who pray for money and God gives them an idea. They want cash but God wants them to apply their idea and derive their blessing from hard work and diligence. When they refuse, they lack, but it's not because God isn't faithful. It's because they had a bad plan and wrong expectations.
Where purpose is concerned, you cannot spend time doing something that isn't your purpose and expect to make progress. For example, if your purpose is to write, then you must spend time writing if you are going to be successful. Doing everything else but writing and then expecting to succeed as a writer is sowing wheat and expecting to reap corn.
Is it time to examine some of your strategies for success? Are they based on sound principles or wishful thinking? Are you like me, sowing wheat and expecting corn in any area of your life? The good news is that I have sown in my purpose the last seven years and the return has been great. It's not too late for you to sow correctly and reap accordingly. Don't hesitate for a minute to abandon your flawed strategy to pursue one that is based on common sense and God's laws. God wants to bless you, but you have to do your part and not expect God to cover your bad thinking or wrong assumptions.
I have decided to postpone my Alaska cruise for 2008. I'll keep you posted on any future cruise plans.