EP 165 – STAGES IN A REPLANT Pt.3 WATERING
Welcome back to the Bootcamp! We’re jumping back in on our series Stages in a Replant. Dial in, sit back and reflect on what success in ministry looks like! Let us know your comments, thoughts and insights-we’d love to hear from you.
In our examination of the stages in replanting a church we began with the hard work of plowing—which prepares the ground to receive the seeds of the gospel. In the next stage, planting, we highlighted the work of embedding the gospel intof every life and activity of the church.
Today we look at the important work of watering the implanted gospel seeds.
Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians 3, provides us with insights into the unique roles he an Apollos shared in the spread of the gospel.
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered… 1 Corinthians 3:5-6a
What was Apollos’ work of watering? Acts 18 may provide some insight: Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in (the) spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus… he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
Apollos’ assignment was the clear proclamation of the gospel, rooted in the scriptures, empowered by the Spirit for the practical help and edification of believers and the defense of the faith to skeptics and doubters.
A church that has been in decline may have been lacking:
- Consistent and clear communication of the gospel message
- Exegetical teaching from God’s word
- Spirit empowered preaching
- Practical application of God’s truth to everyday life
- A powerful apologetic for Jesus in the culture
Replanters and Revitalizers must be fundamentally committed to:
- Sermon preparation and evaluation
- The centrality of the Gospel in their teaching
- The devotion to and reliance upon The Spirit in all of the processes involved in preaching (Prayer, Planning, Preparation and Proclamation)
- Equipping and challenging the congregation to respond in obedience in everyday life
Listen on for some practical tips on how to increase your effectiveness in watering the congregation with the word of God through preaching.
Free commentary sites mentioned:
Fun links: Bob’s Yelp Elite review of the Bill-Hillary Airport in Arkansas
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JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Here we are back at the bootcamp. Bob, I hope you’re ready for the next episode. we have been disciplined and mature adults and are recording ahead of time and not the week of, and that means that this. Episode will come out after the Battle of the Boot has already decided whether LSU or Arkansas wins.
But as we’re recording, we don’t know, but our bet still stands. And when LSU defeats Arkansas, you, I will be meeting you with an LSU shirt to put it on and we’ll put it on the social media’s.
Bob Bickford: Yes, well, I can, uh, I can pack an extra bag and bring that hog hat like I brought it to New Orleans last year and, uh, You know, I’ve, I thought about actually wearing that through TSA security, but I thought that might not go so well. I’d really love to see you wear it through TSA security.
JimBo Stewart: Just, I would [00:01:00] just announce the whole time I lost a bet. I lost a bit.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. Or you could call the hogs and that would be even better, but then you might not make your.
JimBo Stewart: Depends on where I am. You never know
Bob Bickford: Yeah. If you were at, uh, Little Rocket, one of the saddest airports I’ve ever been through a Bill and Hillary Clinton airport. That’s just that, that airport needs some attention, man. Last
time I was through there, uh,
JimBo Stewart: No. The Hillbilly
Bob Bickford: Billy Airport, That was, uh, I think I left a Yelp review on that, Jimbo, in fact, I’m sure of it.
those of you who do not know if you’re new listener, I am a Yelp elite, have been so for quite some time. And, search me on the Yelp and, uh, read the, read the, uh, review for Bill and Hillary, their airport in Little Rock, Arkansas.
JimBo Stewart: Oh, the Hillbilly Airport. Well, Bob, I look forward to seeing which one of us ends up losing that bet. we’ll have to enter that into social media and maybe some later episodes on down the road, even though it will have already happened when this one goes live. Hey, just as a reminder of [00:02:00] the boot campers, we now have a blog and so each of these episodes, will go out on a Wednesday and then on that following Friday, a blog episode, written a blog, not episode, blog.
Post written by either Caleb Duncan or Aaron Cofield will be going out on Fridays. And then on Mondays they’ll be doing throwbacks to old episodes that we’ve done before. So check that out. And this one will be fun to do in both podcast and blog format cause this is a miniseries. So in our examination, we’ve been talking about the stages of replanting, a church, and we began with the hard work of plowing, which prepares the ground to receive the seeds of the gospel.
And then we did last week, the second stage. Of planting and we highlighted the work of embedding the gospel into every life and activity of the church. And so today, Bob, we’re gonna look at the important work of watering. We’ve, we have plowed, we have planted. And now it is time to water the [00:03:00] implanted gospel seeds.
Talk to us about it.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. Jimbo, I love this series. this comes from a blog series. I think I wrote back in, I wanna say like 2015, maybe 2016, uh, when we were just starting out churchy planters, and I think you, you had just started connecting with us and. And so I was deep into replanting and thought, Man, what, what is replanting?
Like? And, and ran across this agricultural metaphor of sewing seed. And so the stages, you know, plowing, planting, and now watering, this is kind of the, it gets a little easier here if you got water, right? So, and here’s the good news, We got water, right? So, our passage that we looked at, as a foundation was really from first Corinth.
Chapter three, and let me highlight verses three through six. And uh, here’s what it says. What then is Apollo? What is Paul servants through whom you believed as the Lord assigned each? I planted and Apollos watered. So Jimbo, there’s this, there’s this idea that we are workers [00:04:00] in God’s field and so we plow, we plant, and then there’s also the work of watering.
And so, here, here’s some thoughts on watering. What was. The work of watering? Well, one of the things I think you can look at in an Acts 18, if you turn there and look there, it gives us a, a background story about Apollos. Here’s what it says. Now, a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus.
He was an eloquent man, competent in the scriptures. He’d been instructed in the way of the Lord and being fervent in the spirit. He spoke and taught accurately the things concerning. He greatly helped those who through Grace had believed for, he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that he was the Christ.
So here’s this guy, Apollo, and, and I wish we had more on him in the scriptures. Jimbo, he sounds like a really, really incredible, communicator and
theolog. And apologist, but we just have a little bit and really kind of goes back to the [00:05:00]passage, right? We’re not supposed to make much of men and their giftings and their abilities, and so maybe that’s why we don’t see Apollo much more in the scriptures.
But if we look at that passage, we have to kind of think, Okay, well if this was his role and Paul says that he planted, but Apollo watered, we look at that verse in Acts chapter 18 that really kind of maybe describes what the watering. And so when we think about watering his assignment, really, his gifting and the task that the Lord had for him, as Paul writes about this, it was that he was a clear proclaimer of the gospel message.
That was rooted in the scriptures. It was empowered by the Holy Spirit, and it helped believers grow in their faith. But it also gave a defense of the faith, and it also gave an apology for the faith. Not like a, I’m sorry, but you know, an, a apologist. He, he defended the faith. He advocated for the faith.
And so as we think about the, the work of planting, what’s he, [00:06:00] what’s he doing? A policy is coming along and watering. the implanted word by proclaiming the gospel.
JimBo Stewart: So why do you think that churches that are in decline, I mean, obviously, most, I, I would, I would. You’d be hard pressed to find one that hasn’t been preaching the Bible. even though they’ve been long a decline, there’s been men faithfully standing in the pulpit preaching outta God’s word. They’re not preaching outta the Book of Mormon, and they’re not preaching Bob TH’s article on history of heavy metal, but they.
But they are, I mean, they’re preaching the gospel. So why do you think churches that have been in decline for a long time have an issue with transformation from preaching? Like, why is it that that’s not seeking transformation in those churches?
Bob Bickford: Yeah, it’s a good question. You know, I, I think that it’s, there, there are a number of reasons that are likely. that could, we could point to, because we, we’ve all heard the scripture that the word never comes back void, , but it sure seems [00:07:00] like, it sure seems like it’s dormant for a while in some congregations.
I mean, you can preach on all sorts of things, right? And so a re planter goes in there, man, and he’s like, Man, I’m, I’m preaching, I’m trying to preach the paneling off of the church, right? I mean, just come on. And it’s just not taking hold. Maybe he’s plowing, maybe he’s doing some things. But here, here’s some things maybe that contribute to the fact that that preaching hasn’t been transformational.
The first one is that, that there, there may have been a lack of clear and consistent communication of the gospel message. If they would go back to the last episode, the gospel’s, Not just that Jesus came to die for you. And forgive you of your sins and restore you to God, but it’s this whole gospel life preaching that, that you, Jo, you don’t just get saved and sit.
Or saved and wait till Jesus comes back. But honestly, Jimbo, a lot of the churches that that I came to, the main thrust of the church was about evangelism just [00:08:00] get saved. And there was not a, a clear delineation of discipleship. Another one is, I don’t think that I was exposed to expository preaching until my parents joined another church.
and I was, in, in, about the sixth. Right. And so I honestly, that was, we, you know, man, it seemed like we were in Ephesians five forever, whatever our, our pastor just camped out there like for six months. It was like Ephesians five, right? And that was like my introduction to expository preaching right before then.
I can’t tell you. Subject of any sermon that I ever sat under when I was a kid. Like it just was all over the map. Right. And it wasn’t expounding God’s word. So that may be something. The other thing too, Jimbo, is we, we can’t, deny the fact there’s something that happens when the Holy Spirit comes in and empowers the word as it’s proclaimed.
Right. So you have the gospel proclamation that’s empowered by the work of the spirit really is the transformative power. So is the spirit moving? Is there some hindrance to, to [00:09:00] the spirit’s work in the church? and then I would add, uh, a couple more things. One is a practical application. Of God’s word to everyday life.
Like one of the things I think I’ve heard you say, and a lot of other people say, So we’ve read this passage, we’ve exegeted it now. So what? Right. What is the so what, How is this supposed to make a difference to me? And honestly, I think that application preaching really probably started in earnest in the eighties, probably in the nineties when people were, were you. Determining that we needed to respond to God’s word. And some people wrestle with, Well, do I, Am I, should I be crystal clear in application or should I, you know, leave it maybe at like the 60,000 or the a hundred thousand foot level bottom line? I think you’ve got a point to some response to, to God, the preaching of God’s word.
And so, a lot of times the, that may have been lacking and then the last. there, there just may have been a lack of, of just a powerful apologetic for Jesus in the church and in the culture. Like when [00:10:00]Jesus, you can’t be neutral on who he is, right? And so if you only preach Jesus, like he’s a historical figure. Or a narrative figure or a literary figure rather than the risen Christ, then you’re probably, you might be lacking some in, preaching the full, gospel and the powerful word of God.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. You know, they say a large percentage of people do not have the cognitive ability to hear abstract thoughts and turn it into concrete action steps. And
so clear application is super important and certainly it does feel sometimes like. I, for me, I felt like I’ve preached and it felt like the word came back void.
I believe that the word is true, and so I believe that it wasn’t void. but man, there have been some times where I’ve preached and I felt like, man, I preached my heart out. I know, I, I mean, I know I preached good, true things out of the Bible of how to apply the Bible and the gospel to our lives and, and nothing.
Right? And I remember a dying church that. Preached [00:11:00] at, and man, I came at ’em hard. I mean, I just, I was, I was laying down some prophetic words on Ephesus and the, the letter of the Church of Ephesus and Revelation based on the history of Ephesus. And, I sat down and, response, they sang a funeral hy.
Bob Bickford: Ha,
JimBo Stewart: And I didn’t know what to do with that, but , But my wife leaned over to me and she knows music a lot better than I do and she just laughs. She goes, Jimbo, that was a very good sermon and she doesn’t always say that, so she says that it was true. She says it was a very good sermon. You did a very good job.
Uh, I don’t think they heard you. so. Part of that, and I appreciate you said you may just be plowing Right. at, at some points, especially early on, that you may just be plowing that hard soil, and planting the seeds of the gospel. So, If the public proclamation, skilled teaching of the gospel are central to the development of a healthy and vibrant church, and this is part of watering, and we’ve done some plowing.
[00:12:00] We’ve been, we’ve been planning the seeds of the gospel, we’ve been preaching and it’s felt like the word has become void or maybe we’re getting through and we’re getting to the other side of that. What are at to the pastor listening to this, to the lay leader listening to this am. What commitments does a church need to make to ensure that they’re watering the congregation through the ministry of the word, not just plowing and planting.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, great question. You know, I, I, as you were talking about the fact that, your hard commitment to preaching or your, your devoted commitment to preaching. And you just, man, you are preaching, preaching, preaching, and it just feels like you’re plow. I just envisioned the first three years of my replant, it flashed in front of me,
JimBo Stewart: ptsd.
Bob Bickford: I know, and I got tired, Jimbo, I was just like, Oh my gosh, I remember those days. I mean, just like, oh, so tough. but yeah, great question. So what are some, you know, what are some ways that you can, can really, evaluate, [00:13:00] you know, is, am I really watering the congregation well, first one is sermon.
And evaluation. Like, just look at your preparation, your preparation, and then evaluate. And I, what I would say is find a friend, and I’ve done this, I did this with you, some seasons ago when I was preaching, cuz I honestly, Jimbo, I felt like, man, I think I’m, I’m like a pitcher that’s throwing balls all the time.
And I might have beaned a few people in the head and I just mean, I, I need to understand do I, am I missing it here? Have I gotten stale? Have I lost my form? And so, I remember asking you and a couple others, Hey, would you just listen to a couple of weeks at random? You know, I wasn’t going to send you what I thought was my best.
Just listen to a couple weeks and just kinda scan through and, and tell me what you, you think. Get some outside eyes and ears to, to look at your sermon, delivery and your content. And does it make sense? Do you have passion? does it hold attention, those sorts of things. And then let that evaluation kind of go back into your preparation and, see if somebody gives you something good to hang onto.
The other thing is just to make sure that the [00:14:00] gospel is central in your teaching. Just, we talked about this in a couple episodes over and over. Just really make sure that the gospel is good news. Like if you’re preaching is all angry, bad news and depressing, man, where’s the gospel, bro? like, figure it out.
I mean, you gotta get back to the gospel. and think about that. I would say this too, Jimbo. it, it’s really important to be, relying on the spirit in all of the processes that are involved in preaching. So like, selection of series, study outlining all, you know, development, writing and delivery. Like just really.
Saturate that in prayer, in planning and, and let the spirit lead. And sometimes Jimbo, I would, um, my normal pattern was to try to outline a passage, read a passage, a bunch, outline it, and then start writing some of it on Monday. I try to wrap that up by about Wednesday or Thursday and maybe let it sit and simmer on Friday, get up [00:15:00] Saturday morning and then sometimes Sunday morning.
And Jimbo, there were a few times when, when I, on Sunday morning, I would be like, you know, I think the busyness of this last week, I missed a few things, and so I would feel sort of, something, what I would call is not a a, a completely new direction, but maybe a fresh enlivening of the material a little bit.
Right when I, when I had maybe really stayed committed on a, a particular illustration or particular structure, and then as I was coming to it fresh again on Sunday before the delivery sometimes is just the sense, the spirit like changing it a little bit. Right now, I don’t want, You’ve probably seen these guys, and I don’t wanna be one of these guys that ever gets up in the pulpit and says, Well, I never prepare anything.
I’ll just let the Lord speak through me. I don’t think so. I mean on maybe once or twice in your life, but on a regular basis. I don’t think so.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I mean, I think you gotta be ready in, in season and out of season. And I feel like, I’ve preached for enough years now [00:16:00] that if I got the call from my pastor on Sunday morning, and he said, Hey, I woke up sick. I need you to. Like, I feel like I could, I could pull that off. I’ve, I, I’ve already, I know even this year I did a Saturday night call for my pastor.
But I’m pulling out something I’ve prepared before. I’m not just, I’m not just winging it complete, complete off of whatever, is in my head. That would be dangerous. ,you never know what might come out. no. I actually, you know, here’s the thing. I’m actually pretty comfortable winging it. Like in life in general.
I’m not big. I’m not naturally a planner. I have learned the benefits from experience through of planning, and so I actually found I can feel a lot freer, not more restricted, but freer when I plan my sermon series in advance. And so, I’ve said it on here before, I always planned a year in advance. And so in September, October, I would be planning the next [00:17:00] year’s calendar and I would, I mean, the whole calendar and. And so we’d line out what and what we’re gonna go. And man, I can’t tell you how many times, Bob, that, something would happen in the world. Something big, like 2020, like everything, like every week something big happened. And, You would be tempted to be like, Man, that was such a big global event. maybe I need to adjust what I’m preaching.
And I would go and there like, sure enough, the text like perfectly addresses exactly what I needed to say. And so I had some people push back and say, You gotta leave room for the Holy Spirit. And as I said, I mean you, I mean, don’t limit the Holy Spirit to spontaneity Holy Spirit. Involved in the process of me planning this out in year advance.
And he actually had knowledge what was gonna happen that week. and you know, I did not. And so, so yeah, plan ahead, get evaluation. I try to do that regularly as well. I mean, always, always be sharpening your acts. So, all right, let’s, let’s move a little bit forward and say we’re committed to improving our watering skills.
What are some practical steps that we can take [00:18:00] to continually improve? So we’ve talked about evaluating and planning. how can we make sure that we’re always sharpening that act and improving beyond evaluation?
Bob Bickford: One of the first things, Jimbo, is I think you’ve gotta have a, a strong personal devotional and prayer life. Like you have to be a follower of Jesus. You have to be a person that’s in the.
and cuz we really preach from the overflow, right? And, and so if we are not, if we’re not connected to, to the Lord, if we’re not praying, if we’re not preaching from the overflow, it will feel stale.
It will feel kind of, just a lack of freshness and a vitality to it. So I think that’s one riddle, real critical part. The other one is I really do. If you are preaching every week, you would benefit from regular breaks,
right? So every six weeks, or so, you know, if you’re in a smaller congregation or if you’re, you’re the single solo staff person, raise somebody up right to, to help you cuz you, you’re gonna need frequent breaks cuz we just get, [00:19:00] we kind of get tired or we get in a rut.
And so I think that’s really.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I’ve, I’ve had this conversation so many times with guys at churches of all sizes that had talked about how somewhere around 6, 7, 8 weeks it starts to become, More of a burden than a blessing. And there’s something about that five to seven week period. And so, man, just from observation, I don’t have anything scientific to back this up, but from just a, I mean, probably three dozen pastors that have, I’ve talked about this with.
It, there seems to be a pretty consistent pattern. And so, and I would just, so I, I learned that years ago and started building that in. And so when I would plan out my sermon series in advance, I would go ahead and, and lay out like, all right, so I’m not gonna go more than six weeks at once. and before somebody else is preaching, even if, and I would say be there, it doesn’t have to mean vacation.
Like be there and pastor and sit under the preaching of God’s word. don’t take that. Every time to go preach somewhere else. You [00:20:00] could, you can go preach somewhere else, periodically cuz you can preach something you’ve already preached. And so, or even if you don’t still, sometimes it’s fresh to be in front of a new audience, a new congregation.
But man, just, just. It’s also part of developing leaders. Like you can’t develop preachers if you don’t ever allow them in the pulpit. And if you don’t have leaders developed, that’s what’s your local association, your state convention, sister, churches, the replant hub. I mean, there’s just, there’s a lot of ways.
If you can’t figure out how to do it, reach out to us. We’d love to help you think through that. But there’s a way, there’s a way that you could, every five to eight weeks you could not be preaching and it’ll, it’ll refresh your.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, absolutely. You know, have a conversation with your church leadership or that’s deacons or, you know, personnel committee or whatever, and just let them know, you know, this is why this is important and, uh, maybe even share this podcast with them. Right. So I think everybody needs a rotation to stay fresh.
I mean, just thinking of baseball season, like if, if you’re the, if you’re the only pitcher and you’re pitching every game, you’re really. It, there’s some weekends [00:21:00] it’s not gonna work, right? You’re just gonna, cuz you’re gonna be exhausted. Cause pastoring is much more than just preaching, right? It’s, pastoring people, it’s leading, it’s counseling, it’s discipling, it’s all of those sorts of things.
And so, breaks are important. Couple other things I would say is make sure you have some good study resources and methods and then. Focus occasionally on improving those. Right. Cause I think we have some go-tos that we probably like, that we normally go to for, you know, this. We’re just used to using them.
one of the things I would say is with the advent of online bible commentaries and Bible study resources, it is so vitally important to. To, um, to get some of that, to, to use some of that where it’s free or not free, or, you know, find a way to, to access those. And here’s why. Back in the day, Jimbo, when I was in seminary before we had Bible software.
If you were gonna look at commentaries, you had to go to the library, or you had to purchase a bunch of commentaries and then man, you had to work through them, right? [00:22:00] And you had to look and you had to, to write notes. And then you had to, if you’re gonna type that on a paper, then you had to transfer that to a typewriter or a some kind of, you know, word processing.
You know, program on your, your, uh, computer. But man, nowadays the tools and this, the what’s available to you is a lot, more helpful in terms of keyword searches and parallel study searches and maps and historical backgrounds and commentaries. And there’s so much that’s available out there that just, you know, use it one.
You know, you might not say, Well, I don’t have the expensive Bible, so man, you don’t need it. Go to bible bible gateway.com, go to sonic light.com. Those are some, some resources that are helping put those links in that you can find all kinds of study materials there that are really easy to use. And then, you know, what I would do is when I would get a quote from a commentary or a a source, I would be able to cut and paste it and footnote it real quickly.
So I think that’s another thing is get, get some good resources and methods.
JimBo Stewart: some. other good free ones, free bible commentary, dot org. Bob Butley, has just tons of [00:23:00] free resources on there in video, audio, and written and typed. precept austin.org has way more material than anyone ever is gonna have time to go through. and those are all free. I mean, you don’t have to pay a bunch of money to get an expensive software if you have access to that, That’s wonderful.
We live in a time where you can, A, you can access a pretty large amount of good commentary information for free.
Bob Bickford: It’s really good. We’ll put some of those links in the show notes too for, for those of you who don’t have those. here’s one I wanna say with a caution, right? it’s helpful Jimbo to listen to other preachers and it’s helpful to listen to them for inspiration. Not for content or copying, right? We’ve been through that whole scenario, you know, most recently in some of our circles.
but man, there’s nothing wrong with listening to somebody else. preach on a passage or explain a passage. Cuz sometimes you run into a, a verse or two that you’re like, Man, I am not sure how I’m gonna navigate this one. [00:24:00] Right. What’s the best way to communicate it? And then maybe you’re listening to somebody who’s, who’s done it before you, and maybe it is you bring, bring their illustration over, Give them.
Proper, you know, citation and all those sorts of things. But sometimes it’s really good to hear and to listen the way somebody communicates, not only for content, for structure, but for passion and then for delivery, right? It helps you understand who you are. and this is gonna be counterintuitive, uh, but I’m gonna say this one anyway.
Spend less time in preparation and more time pastor. Right. So here’s what I’m not saying. I’m not saying write the Sunday morning special or the Saturday night special. Right? What I am saying though is if you’re, if you’re putting in, you know, 25, 30, 40 hours in sermon prep, you’re not pastoring and you’re not leading to the, to the level that would be helpful for you to do so.
So this is counterintuitive, but I think one of the, the best things is just take some time. and spend less time [00:25:00] and do more pastoring cuz you’re gonna be able to preach out of your experience in pastoring people.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, you need to have a pulse on what’s going on in your congregation and your community and let the word be, be relevant to that because it is, but you need to know what’s going on. This is a good word. Bob, I appreciate the work you’ve put into this outline and, going through this next week, we’ll jump in to the final stage growing.
replanting, stages in a replant, watering