“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” I Corinthians 3:6
Paul is frustrated with his congregation. They are taking sides, showing favorites, pitting one pastor against another: “For when one says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ and another ‘I belong to Apollos,’ are you not merely human?” The Corinthians were quarreling when, Paul says, they should have been banding together to do the work God has given them: to plant seeds of faith so that other new believers can enjoy faith in Christ.
Isn’t that the way life in the church goes? We get sidetracked. We start thinking about and declaring our personal preferences. We get tripped up on the small stuff. And we forget that the reason we’re together in the first place is because the Holy Spirit has called us together to be a church in mission.
Paul’s words, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth,” are a simple but powerful reminder that the work we do is a coordinated effort that requires us to appreciate how everyone contributes to the cause. Paul knew that his job was to plant seeds of faith in Corinth. He knew that he might not be around when the seeds he had planted took root, pushed up through the soil, and grew and flowered.
Paul came to expect that his efforts weren’t the only efforts that would matter. When he spoke Christ’s love to the people at Corinth he understood that he might not see the full fruit of his work. So he relinquished control and conceded that God’s work depended on others too—people like Apollos (who was, no doubt much to Paul’s chagrin, evidently a more eloquent preacher than Paul). Paul confessed that it takes the collective efforts and talents of a whole faith community—like many gardeners in a community garden—to see growth in faith.
So what part will you play in growing this garden of faith? Are you a planter? Are you a waterer? How will you contribute to helping others experience the love of Christ? Perhaps you have friends who aren’t connected to a faith community. Maybe you have a child who isn’t connected to a church. Maybe you find yourself at lunch with a coworker who is disillusioned with the church, and you could offer them a different vision of what the church can be like.
Thinking about how you can contribute is only the first step though. Look around you at Calvary: How do you see others cultivating faith? Identify the gifts of those around you and tell them what you see in them: “Diana, you are so good at identifying new people and helping them to feel welcome.” “Al, your hugs make me feel loved, and I want to share that love with others.” “Jan, you are so good at looking newcomers in the eye, and helping them to feel like they are genuinely seen.”
People of Calvary: We have gifts, we have been given to each other as a gift, and we have the gift of the gospel to share. Christ calls us, he commands us, he entrusts us with planting faith in Federal Way. May we plant, water, and then trust that God is giving growth that is about to erupt and blossom. Pray for it, contribute to it, and be ready to be amazed.
Your fellow gardener,
Rev. Lori A. Cornell