This past Sunday, the sermon focused on the theme of “working in God’s vineyard,” based on the parable in Matthew 21:23-32 about how two sons of a landowner responded to his request that they work in his vineyard. I thought it might be helpful to summarize a few of the points from this message so you can have them in “hard copy” form.
What does “working in God’s vineyard” look like? What tasks are involved? To what do we need to attend? I see three general tasks that we as the people of God face:
- Personal spiritual growth. Each of us is responsible for our own growth and development in Christ. We must choose to follow him, to repent of our sins, to be baptized, to give up sinful patterns of behavior, and to invest ourselves in the life-long process of becoming more like Christ. Since this process is life-long, we must always work towards intentionality about spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, regular church attendance, and so forth.
- Corporate spiritual growth. Each of us is responsible for the growth and development of our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those in our own local congregation. We do not live as “islands” of Christian faith; instead, we share life with each other, we support each other, we challenge each other, and we walk alongside each other through good times and difficult times. The New Testament reveals that we in the church belong to each other and cannot live apart from each other. Therefore, strengthening our corporate spiritual life is a high priority.
- Spreading the message of Christ. Each of us is responsible to tend to the soil which has not yet produced a growing plant. By this, I mean we are charged with the task of building relationships with people outside the Christian faith in order to share Christ with them, that they too might come to know the fullness of life which can be found in him. We might till the soil, plant a seed, spread some fertilizer, water the ground – any of these agricultural activities can describe our work in sharing Christ’s love with those around us.
These three tasks are a beginning point to understanding what working in God’s vineyard looks like. Certainly more tasks could be added to this list, such as working in society toward the goals of justice and fairness, striving to engender peace in our homes and cities and nations, and so on. But I believe these three are a good starting point for us.
How, then, do we get to work on these tasks? I see four applications at the present time for our congregation:
- Dealing with grief and hardship. Many folks in our congregation are struggling right now; we have had more than our fair share of losses and crises in the past month. Certainly the second task (corporate spiritual growth) is a high priority these days while we rally around those who are in distress. However, there’s another level of application: even though we grieve, mourn, and endure hardship, we are still called to work in God’s vineyard – we aren’t off the hook! It might even be the case that our work will be more fruitful because of our reliance on the Lord in times of crisis.
- Sunday school curriculum. We are experimenting with a standardized curriculum for our Sunday school classes this quarter. I have heard mixed reviews at this early stage in our experiment; some people like the structure and content, but other people do not. Remember that this is just an experiment, and the curriculum is only a tool to help us in our task of working in God’s vineyard. Whether you like the curriculum or not, the tasks of personal and corporate spiritual growth are still on the table. Let’s make the best of it!
- Youth group opportunities. Pastor Jerry will soon be asking you (if he hasn’t already) to participate in our youth group ministry in more intentional ways. For instance, he hopes to have adults in our church volunteer to bring in snacks for the youth group’s Sunday evening meetings. He and Connie have several other ideas, as well – but I’ll let them reveal those to you! Let’s become actively involved in ministering to our young people. They really are an exciting bunch!
- Local Ministry of the Quarter. I want this congregation to become more actively involved in partnering with local Christian ministries, of which there are many in our community. Every three months, we will focus our energies on an individual ministry, which we will support with our finances, our resources, and/or our time and energy. For instance, in the final three months of this year, we will support the Pregnancy Resource Center with a “baby bottle drive” – more info will come soon!
Let’s continue the process of learning how to work in God’s vineyard. I’m looking forward to continuing this journey with you!