When I served on a short term mission trip in Austria recently, part of my responsibilities was to work in a kitchen. In a two week span, our team of eight cooked three meals a day for 68 people. Although I love to cook for my family and friends, I begin to feel stressed if I must cook for any more than eight people at a time. This was my first introduction to large quantity cooking in an industrial kitchen. Fortunately, someone else was in charge and I only did what I was told to do, which was fine with me!
Often we started the preparations for a dish one or two days before it was even scheduled on the menu. One day, banana pudding was on the meal plan for the next day. Our head cook, knowing the end result, told me, “We’re making banana pudding. I want you to grind an entire box of graham crackers into crumbs.” When I completed that, she asked me to mix the crumbs with butter and put the mixture in a container. Next, I was to mix together nineteen boxes of vanilla pudding mix with milk.
Since I’ve made banana pudding before, I knew the next step and I wanted to continue. I wanted to be in charge of the entire process of making the banana pudding. It was not to be. At that moment, the head cook needed me to go cut up tomatoes for another project. Someone else finished the pudding the next day and I never saw it again until a small square rested at my place at the lunch table.
Teaching children is much the same process as I experienced with banana pudding. Many of us probably secretly desire to be the one to teach a young child the beginning concepts about God, then continue to train them in the ways of the Lord, bringing them to that wonderful moment when they accept Christ as Lord. After all, we’ve invested time into their lives. It would be so satisfying to be The One to bring them through to that final step of faith that brings them into the kingdom of God.
But that kind of long term involvement is more the rare exception rather than the rule. More often than not, you will have a particular child inside your classroom for 45 minutes a week, for one year. Some children will fill your room for only one session. That’s all the time you get with them. Then it’s someone’s job to influence, guide, teach and help them grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ. In fact, many people are teaching that child: parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, church elders, dear little old church ladies who give the child a hug, the pastor, so many more.
The apostle Paul knew this part of discipleship very well. He says in 1 Corinthians 3:5-8: “ 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, Appolos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.”
Some plant, some water. God gives the growth. We can’t always be the one to finally see a child come to Christ or disciple that child to full maturity. We are needed elsewhere. Think of Phillip who, as recorded in Acts 8, won the Ethiopian to Christ then was whisked away by the Holy Spirit to somewhere. He never saw the man again, never knew whether the man passed along the Good New much less kept the faith. Yet Phillip lost no time in continuing to preach Jesus (Acts 8:40). Our task is to make the most of each moment He gives us with each child, to teach our best, then move on, surrendering that child’s spiritual growth to God, knowing that He cares infinitely more for each child then we ever could.