NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The apostle Paul described himself and Apollos as “simply fellow-workers for and with God” (1 Corinthians 3:9, Weymouth translation). In these words, Paul recognized that ministry is too heavy a burden unless we recognize we are in the field with one another and with God. Ministers — pastors, church staff members, denominational workers, missionaries, laypeople — do not simply work. We work WITH.
Paul openly acknowledged that he needed Apollos. The seeds that Paul planted would have died had Apollos not watered. As we serve Christ, we are coworkers, synergistic partners. Ministerial isolationists do not last; they burn out.
In the Muir Woods north of San Francisco, you may have seen the great Coastal Redwoods. They tower toward heaven forming a cathedral of trees. You do not find these thousand-year-old trees growing in isolation. They stand together. Actually, they hold one another up. Their roots entangle and one tree supports another during the raging storms and winds that attack the grove. That is why they last.
We also are God’s coworkers in ministry. The responsibilities of serving Christ are too heavy, too overwhelming unless we awaken each morning with the sense that we are in it WITH GOD. If you try to minister without the sense of partnership with God, you will be like the gasoline truck driver pictured sometime ago in an Associated Press wire photo. The driver had a tanker filled with gas to be delivered along his route, but he was sitting on the running board of his cab, going nowhere. Why? He had run out of gas while delivering the gas. Likewise, you will run out of gas in ministry if you have no sense that God is for you and with you in the task.
The venerable Major Ian Thomas, now in his 90s, has traveled the world since World War II emphasizing that only CHRIST IN US can minister. He will hold up a white glove in the pulpit, telling the glove to pick up a Bible and hold it. But, of course, the glove only hangs limp until Major Thomas places his hand in the glove. Then everything possible to the hand becomes possible to the glove. Our ministry is a co-working with God, letting God infuse our humanity with his divinity.
Be a supporter and encourager to your fellow ministers. Allow others to stand with you. And always remember that your ministry is a partnership with God.
Draper is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.