Some Christians are gifted as church planters. They are like Paul the Apostle. Converted to convert others. Led by God to start new churches. Paul spoke about this gifting when he wrote, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow” (1 Cor. 3:6). God uses called and gifted servants to both plant new churches and water existing ones. Do you have the apostolic calling of Paul?
As you consider this question, read 1 Cor. 3:5-9 and specifically ask, “What type of servant am I—a planter or a waterer?
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
As you reflect on this passage, realize that you are merely a servant. Only God working through you makes things grow (vs. 6). This planter/waterer metaphor illustrates not only spiritual gifting, but more importantly, divine guidance and empowerment. We are only “God’s fellow-workers . . . God’s field . . . God’s building” (vs. 9). Ultimately the mission is God’s, and we are merely servants ministering in his vineyard.
Read 1 Cor. 3:10-15 about laying kingdom foundations.
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
What type of builder are you in the kingdom of God? Are you like Paul—one who lays the “foundation” of the Gospel “as a wise builder”—or are you like Apollos, a minister building upon an existing foundation (vs. 10)?
The Lord’s work is not easy! It is messy—as messy as people are. Paul writes, “The fire will test the quality of each person’s work” (vs. 13). How do God's servants spiritually and strategically prepare themselves to lay new kingdom foundations of Jesus Christ (church planting) or to build upon these foundations (church renewal and growth)? Are you willing to put your life in God’s hands and work in this messy world?
What type of material will you use to build the foundation of Jesus Christ? Paul describes various materials used in the building—“gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw.” What separates these elements? The answer is that some are combustible and some are incombustible!
Since “the fire will test the quality of each person’s work,” some work will “survive” and some will be “burned up.” Foundations of gold, silver, costly stones will survive but those of wood, hay, and straw will be consumed. How can we spiritually prepare ourselves for ministry in which some of God’s work will “survive” but some will also be “burned up”? Are you spiritually ready to experience loss?
Paul talks about ministering out of “God’s grace.” What does this mean? How do we minister out of God’s grace?
Paul called himself “a wise builder” (vs. 10). How did Paul—who once persecuted the church—become an expert builder? How does "God’s grace” work within us to form us into "expert builders”?
Answering these questions is a step in discerning how you are gifted, wired, and called.