Hand Tools and the Kingdom of God

 In 1892 in Clayton County Iowa John Froelich invented something that would soon become a staple of farms across the world.  It didn’t have a name yet but what it did was something incredible.  It was the first successful gasoline powered engine that could maneuver forwards and backwards.  Froelich had invented what came to be known as the tractor.

Before this many farmers relied on steam powered engines and back breaking work to thresh wheat. Those engines were heavy and hard to maneuver, so Froelich wanted something smaller but with more power.  That first fall with his new engine his crew was able to thresh 72,000 bushels of wheat, making the new equipment a roaring success.  

As long as man has had to work, he has been looking for a way to make that work easier. Everything from the first wheel, to the horse drawn plow, to the biggest satellite driven combine tractors today are an extension of that desire to make the job easier.  “Work smarter, not harder” is the mantra of many people in all walks of life.  No matter what your job is we all employ tools to make life easier.  It’s true in churches too.  The advances of technology has helped those who work in the field and those who work in the flocks of God’s sheep too.  

Like almost all churches we transitioned online in March and maintain a strong digital presence. I’m thankful for these tools that didn’t exist when I started in ministry twenty years ago.  Through these tools churches are able to reach more people than then ever before. A simple broadcast on facebook allows the church to reach a large section of their community and even those across the world. 

When we use these tools with such a large reach it makes us feel important and powerful. We love seeing the big numbers of viewers and shares. There’s nothing wrong with using tools like facebook, blogs, and articles like this one to try to reach as many people as possible.  There is wealths of information out there about how to best use these tools for large impact acros wide swaths of the country. I believe that these tools are part of God’s grace that allow us to have an impact far larger than we could by ourselves. But as 

It’s fun to use big tools that can accomplish big jobs. A man who is skilled with a big tractor or backhoe can accomplish in 1 hour what would take a team of men a month to do by hand. Moreover sometimes only a piece of heavy equipment like a tractor or bulldozer can get the job done.  It’s tempting to think that way in the church too. We think that we have to use these big tools to make a big impact. But we have to remember that most of the pastor's work is done with hand tools, not heavy equipment.  

If someone offered a free class on how to drive a bulldozer many  people would show up. But a class teaching you how to use a shovel likely wouldn’t garner many attendees. While a pastor uses many big tools to reach large sections of people, even like a sermon, the most important work that a pastor or ministry leader does is accomplished with small tools in small moments.

These small tools are varied and wide, from a handwritten card to a family, a meal with someone to disciple them, a text to a discouraged member, or a visit to a family in the hospital. All of these things are done behind the scenes, off the stage, and often only reach one or two people.  But it’s important to remember that all of these things are some of the most important things a pastor or ministry leader can do. They don’t have the glamor or mass impact of the large scale events, but they often have a much longer lasting impact.  

We see this principle laid out for us all over the Bible. The great men and women of the Bible often reached out and made an impact on a small number of people. Moses led the whole nation but took time to lead and disciple Joshua.  Elijah taught Elisha, and even Jesus spent most of his time in small groups. The example of Jesus teaches us that we can have a big impact even if we spend the majority of our ministry in small groups.  

The tools that the pastor uses are more like those of a master carpenter building a small table than an architect building a skyscraper.  Pastors are to use simple and time tested tools to lead churches and help build people into followers of Christ.  Don’t be ashamed of doing the small daily things that will make an impact for generations to come. 

We can know this method works from our own lives.  Undoubtedly we remember a big camp, conference, or retreat that helped us grow in the faith. But those who made the biggest impact in my spiritual walk were those who regularly and consistently worked to mold me into a man after God’s own heart. This includes my parents who consistently guided me, pastors who gently corrected me, and friends who encouraged me when I needed it. None of these things were done before great crowds or with heavy equipment, but they all made a difference.

In the same way the pastor must learn to use his hand tools to guide, nurture, encourage, and feed the sheep of his flock.  The big tools like video or Facebook might cast a larger net, but the small tools of scripture reading, prayer for church members, and care for the sick allows us to have a much larger impact.

The small tools will get the job done, pastor or ministry leader. They might take longer and require some skill, and no one will line up to watch you do it. But at the end of the day you will have been used by Christ to do the work He has called us to do. The most important ministry we can do is done in small and quiet moments, when we point one or two weary souls to Jesus. If you have a big tool like facebook then use it as best you can, but also learn to use the small moments and tools too. Don’t despise the hand tools that God has given you.  They can change lives too. 


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