Signs of life and growth

Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. (Proverbs 14:4)

A couple of Sundays ago, my worship time was interrupted by the sound of a child loudly speaking in the fellowship area. I went out to investigate and found a young boy running around and shouting. I told him that he needed to quiet down, that it was time to worship God. Soon enough, the adult responsible for him came out and pulled him into the service.

That same Sunday, the same time of worship became a bit more exuberant than a typical NewLife Sunday, as a few individuals entered into worship on a more expressive level, lifting their voices in praise to God, dancing, and bowing down before the Lord. I continued in worship, but also found myself glancing over from time to time to see what was happening.

My experience that Sunday brought to my mind an obscure proverb, Proverbs 14:4, which reads, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” The plain message of this proverb is simple: if you don’t have any oxen in the barn, it will stay pretty clean, but you also won’t produce many crops. Of course, this proverb isn’t really about farming. The author is communicating that if you want meaningful activity and production, you need to be prepared for the messiness that will accompany it. And if your priority is peace and order, you might be able to achieve that, but it will come at the expense of life and growth.

Our desire as a church is to see people transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ into worshipers and followers of Him. If God is going to answer that prayer, then it will mean that there will be children there on a Sunday who aren’t familiar with church etiquette and don’t yet know what is proper or godly speech and behavior. And if God is going to transform into worshipers and followers of Him, it will also mean stretching us out of our cultural comfort zones into individuals who truly worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

An abundance of crops comes by the strength of the ox. And along with the ox comes a messy barn. But the alternative – a clean and peaceful barn with no signs of life and growth – is worse. So let us continue to pray for God to bring individuals of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds to our church, that we might see many people transformed by His presence and His gospel.

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