In Deuteronomy 26, the nation of Israel received instructions about what they should do after they entered the Promised Land. Once they arrived at the land which God gave each tribe and family, they were to plant their crops. When the harvest came, they were to go to the place where the Lord would establish his name and give an offering of the firstfruits of their harvest. They would accompany their offering with these words: "Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O Lord, have given me" (Deuteronomy 26:10).
In 2012, the Lord gave me new soil from which I was to bring him a harvest. The church was called Cotton Ridge. It began in 2010 when a group of hurting believers joined together to seek God's healing and see what the Lord would do. Through a unique set of circumstances, this small congregation in a small west Texas town seemed destined to invest its resources not in property, buildings, and other temporary things, but in people. For over six years it supported orphans, ministered to widows, rebuilt homes for the needy, fed the hungry, prayed for the sick, witnessed to the lost, and baptized those who wished to follow Jesus. The church was able to accomplish all of this without ever owning a building, a kitchen, or even a baptistery because the people believed a very fundamental truth: people are the church.
The Lord has now shown the church's members that the most effective way to serve God's kingdom is to take that same spirit and belief into other welcoming congregations in the community. Our final worship service together was a commissioning service to carry out that goal. The only thing Cotton Ridge leaves behind is that which lasts forever: changed lives.
As for me, I believe that the Lord is preparing new soil in which I will plant my life and ministry. My offering to the Lord as a pastor will result in a harvest that is accompanied by the same words spoken by Israel: "Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O Lord, have given me."
The Lord gives us both the soil and the harvest. We must do the work.