By Robert K. Rodenbush
In I Corinthians 3:6-9 the Apostle Paul writes: “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.”
Perhaps many may have never heard of Bro. and Sis. James Flynn, former missionaries to The Republic of Georgia, one of the former Soviet Union nations located on the Southwest border of Russia and just north of Turkey. The Flynns never received much recognition because they were just faithful pioneer missionaries with little to report. Missionary ministry is not always about converts, miracles and glowing revival reports. Someone has to go where there is no church and start with nothing. Bro. and Sis. Flynn understood the dynamics of this principle more than most.
As Regional Director of Europe and the Middle East, I witnessed on site their sacrifices, like moving a little space heater from room to room because they couldn’t heat the whole house, and making sure it was in my room when I visited. They suffered inconveniences that most would never be willing to suffer in order to witness to the lost souls of The Republic of Georgia. Gradually a small congregation was birthed. However, after faithful planting and watering and just before furlough time, challenges arose from outside sources, and they lost almost the entire work.
I remember calling Bro. Flynn from the Toronto conference and asking, “What do you want to do?” “We want to stay,” he said. “I still believe there is a harvest in The Republic of Georgia.” And they began the tedious job of rebuilding the work.
Bro. Flynn realized that he was not a man of great talent or skill. However, he was a man who had something greater… he had a vision that reached far beyond his abilities and his inabilities!
His vision went beyond his personal agenda. His vision went beyond his personal comfort. His vision went beyond his disappointments and heartaches. His vision surpassed himself and reached into the bigger picture, the Kingdom of God!
It was just before their furlough that the work in Georgia finally started to grow again. Then suddenly, shortly after arriving home for furlough, Bro. Flynn fell ill with serious heart complications, and God took Bro. Flynn home to his heavenly reward.
In this life, Bro. Flynn never got to see the harvest of his work. But that does not mean that the harvest will not be fulfilled! The church in The Republic of Georgia continues to grow today and only God knows the final results of the seeds that the Flynns planted and watered.
We cannot ever forget that in God’s plan, some plant and some water, but it is God who gives the increase! Our vision must be larger than we are and must be able to see further than we can see or hope to be, even into the future.
It is unique that many great leaders have one thing in common…the total effects of a lifetime of leadership is sometimes not evident until after the great leader is gone.
I am thinking of Jesus’ earthly ministry. After all Jesus did on this earth, He died and left His entire vision with only a few doubting, selfish, fearful and faithless men. It would seem that Jesus would feel like a complete failure after having a following of thousands and then only having eleven left. I know I would. Yet Jesus, in His divine plan, seemed satisfied with that.
It is the principle of a higher vision. Jesus did not come to directly build His own kingdom, but to build the men and women who would carry on the work. At the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus fulfilled His mission and purpose of building the apostles and others who would take His gospel to the ends of the earth. Jesus was a leader whose vision has outlived His time on earth by thousands of years.
In 2005, I was privileged to travel to Iraq to encourage some believers along with representatives Arlie Enis and Gary Reed. It was there that I realized the influence and far-reaching ministry of Bro. Andrew Urshan’s ministry. He had traveled there for a short period of time preaching many years ago, but he never got to see the total results of his work in Persia. He never knew that in 2005 there would be a remnant of nearly 3,000 Apostolics baptized in Jesus’ name and filled with the Holy Ghost in Iraq.
While in Iraq, I stood on the wall known there as the wall of ancient Nineveh. It is said that Jonah was buried there. I thought to myself, “Jonah, your revival had lasting results that you never knew of. There is still a remnant in Nineveh today!”
In 1991, I made my first trip as Regional Director to Spain. Several missionaries had gone there and given years to preaching and teaching, but in the end the work was only a handful of around 40 discouraged believers. Missionary William Markham kept saying to me, “Don’t give up on Spain, Bro. Rodenbush. It’s gonna fly!” And because of a higher vision than most could see, it did fly. Today the church in Spain has multiplied to more than 5,000 constituents and 50 churches and preaching places.
God’s calling, God’s work and God’s wisdom is always bigger than any one person. We are only a single part of a greater master plan with many players.
Our calling is to play our part on the team to the best of our ability. The “Great Commission” that we are involved in is much larger than any one of us. Someone plants, someone waters, but we must never forget that it is God that gives the increase!
Ultimately, our vision, our ministry and our work in the Kingdom of God must rest in the truth that God holds the future and the results in HIS hand!
God help us to see the young Sunday school kid in our church not as just a number to be counted, but as a future missionary or pastor. Let our vision always reach further than what we can see today. Bro. Cleveland Becton won Bro. Lee Sherry to the Lord, and he became a great missionary. Bro. Sherry won a young man by the name of Bruce Howell to the Lord, and he became a missionary and now General Director of Global Missions. Every soul needs to be seen as a future harvester, a future leader. Most importantly, we must see all people of all cultures as souls that need Jesus.
The harvest is assured even if someone else harvests it! I firmly believe this battle will be won, even if I am not the one called upon to hold a visible position or strike a visible blow.
I firmly believe this is why the Lord gave us the scripture in Galatians 6: 9: “And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”