Yesterday I was making some apple sauce. I mean I was making it good and plenty. I was peeling and coring and boiling and trying not to spill as I poured it into jars. I was so engaged in it. A kid was there helping me, counting apples, moving apples around. I was excited. There might as well have been two kids making apple sauce (except, of course, we actually succeeded in making sauce in a way no two kids I know ever could).
It is nice to make apple sauce because it recognizes that despite all the techno wizardry of the day we live in there is still a value in not wasting food. There is a value because as a Christian I am reminded of the wonderful abundance God provisions us with (we will throw out many of our apples no matter how much we eat now and save for later and there are seeds aplenty to ensure more trees to come). It reminds one of our connection to food and the earth. Doing it with a child reminds one of the need to mentor and raise up our kids, to teach them values and skills (not that apple sauce is such a high skill).
I must also admit, however, that I think I particularly enjoyed it because I am a pastor and we notoriously like to count things. We count people in pews, we count offerings, we count baptisms, some even count positive comments on sermons. We might count how many Sundays in a row we have preached, how many holiday days we have given up this year, how many evenings out we survived this week, how many books we have read, how many times we have read The Book or how many hours we have spent in meetings this month. We love to count. 1 2 3 4 la-di-da.
I suspect we love to count because we want our lives and ministries to count. Here’s the rub: in ministry there is really very little to count and as the pathetic list above suggests there is little value in the counting. And so many of us love to mow our lawns, or make applesauce because such activities demonstrate change, they clearly permit us to see progress, and man do we crave us a little progress.
The urge is to trust in ourselves and in the staffs and elders we lead to be clever enough to build our communities of faith, to help them progress. We look to what can only be described as “gurus” to help us fix what’s broken or speed up what’s going well. It isn’t right, but I’m being honest about what we either do or are tempted to do in Christian leadership.
Psalm 119:66 says, teach me knowledge and good judgement. I believe it says that because no matter smart we might think we are, no matter how smooth an argument we can create, it is idolatry to place ourselves above the LORD and that the best, most correct, most True arguments are inspired by God (even the ones that aren’t written by Christians, but that’s another topic). We need to spend our time as Christians seeking out not the most charming voice of our day, not the loudest or most famous, but the quiet whisper of God in stillness.
So I will go back to my applesauce tonight, I will listen to the child, I will kiss my wife and get her to taste the product of my labors. I will turn off the tv and wait upon the lord. I won’t worry about measuring ministry, but I will know how much applesauce I have made and take pleasure from that simple knowledge and from the knowledge that all of it, the whole wholesome picture is a gift from God to be cherished.