Today's blog post is an essay about this very subject from my friend Kate James. Kate has been in ministry with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) for 26 years, but she hasn't always felt like she was doing much for the Kingdom. You can check out her awesome bio below, but first, see if you can identify with her when she tells her story below.
And remember: you matter. Every worker is essential in God's harvest field. No matter how insignificant you think you are, you have unique gifts and you can reach people for Jesus that no one else can reach, in ways no one else can reach them. YOU are irreplaceable in the Kingdom. – Jamie
“Laborers” by Kate James:
I know a man who came to Christ because a tract got stuck to his shoe.
It’s a mystery, the whole thing. This was in the 1980's, and my husband was working in Manhattan at the time. He worked on Madison Avenue as an art director.
As advertising was all about effectiveness, and he was a brand new Christian, the possibilities for talking about Jesus seemed endless: well executed posters, “talks” not preaching, thoughtful conversations; in some ways we were ahead of the times. Chick tracts were still circulating and they made us cringe. (“Chick tracts” were those really bad cartoons featuring evil looking people and SIN in illustrated form with copious messages promising hell and damnation unless you repented.)
They were right of course, those tracts. Let’s be honest, no repentance and you go to hell, although it pains me to even write it.
But our generation is beyond that, and in so many ways this is a good thing.
We kinda blew it, us Christians. Because the emphasis was on sin and hell, it was an easy slide into judging other people’s amounts of sin, and they better repent soon or they’re gonna get it.
But when this is the message, the messenger certainly needs to follow suit and be a “confessor,” as John so aptly put it in 1 John 1:9; and Christians often didn’t bother because, well, they were already forgiven. Jesus can talk about Hell and damnation, the disciples can talk about hell and damnation, Jonathan Edwards can talk about hell and damnation, but those who are consciously living with unconfessed sin just plain aren’t qualified . . . So.
After being given a million dollar budget to advertise a certain product that had been proven not effective, my husband decided to leave advertising. Advertising Jesus made a lot more sense, eternally speaking, and so he put in his resignation at his big bad advertising agency. We began the grueling process of raising support to work full-time with a Christian college ministry.
I wasn’t good at being a missionary.
However, my husband was. Lots of guys came to Christ, and not only that, went into ministry themselves. They are pastors and missionaries and godly men seeking the Lord now.
I had 3 women who sometimes came to my Bible study. Many times they didn’t, and eventually I didn’t bother planning because the chances of anyone showing up were slim anyway. One woman moved in with her boyfriend; one began to call our ministry a cult (it wasn’t, I promise); and the other I’ve lost touch with.
Jesus talks a lot about fruit, and—at least in the 1980’s—it was easy to translate fruit as saved souls. I wanted so badly for God to “fling me out into his work” (Matthew 9:38), but He seemed hesitant. What was wrong with me?
In my discouragement, many people tried to encourage me by telling me that in supporting my husband God was using me, that I was in fact a laborer. But truth be told, I wasn’t good at supporting my husband either. I felt like making popcorn was a perfectly acceptable dinner. I left our laundry in the washer for hours so that it ended up with that soury smell. My husband doesn’t have a sensitive nose, for which I’m grateful, and he wore the sour-smelling shirts to campus where he told people about Jesus.
And yeah, we had children, and yes, they were my ministry and still are, but as far as soul-hopping-new-life stuff I failed, and perhaps because of that I didn’t have much interest in it.
But I did have interest in personal growth, and the personal growth of my children, and of those God put in my life, and watering.
Over time I began to realize that watering was my labor. It comforted me that, as is implied in Mark 4:26-29, God is the one who causes the growth. I might not always water well, and sometimes skip days altogether, but He is the one responsible for the growth, mine included.
Thankfully, He’s been faithful, and at 50 I feel like I’m finally plumbing the “depth of the riches and knowledge of God” (Romans 11:33), and this makes me trust Him and this makes me pray and this makes me realize that for whatever mysterious reason, my prayer actually changes lives the way a tract stuck on the bottom of a shoe can, given the love of the God of the universe.
Have you ever felt like your work didn't matter, that what you were doing for God wasn't bearing fruit? If so, leave a comment below! Let's talk about it!
Katherine James has an MFA in fiction from Columbia University, where she received the Felipe P. De Alba merit fellowship. She has work published in the anthology, In the Arms of Words (Sherman Asher, 2005), St. Katherine Review, and other periodicals. One of her short stories was recently chosen as a finalist for a Spring Narrative Prize, and her novel, Can You See Anything Now, was a semi-finalist for the Doris Bakwin prize in fiction.
Katherine is a member of Redbud Writer's Guild and is in the process of completing a book length essay about heroin addiction in the suburbs of Philadelphia. She blogs at Northhilldrive.com.
Note from Jamie: This post is second in my series called The Ekballo Project: Praying the Lord of the Harvest. You can read the first post in the series here: Confession: I'm Not An Evangelist (And I'm OK With That) You'll see more posts about how ALL the callings matter in the Kingdom throughout this year. 🙂
Image courtesy of Mr.Bologna on Flickr via Creative Commons license. Image has been cropped and graphics added.