where there are no oxen . . .

This article was originally posted on Transforming Leader the winter of 2010. Enjoy!


I remember talking to a pastor once at a conference about the challenges he was facing at his church. He jokingly said, “Church work would be a lot easier if it weren’t for the people.” I understood that he was just dumping on me and that he really did love the ministry and his people; but I remember the remark because I’ve heard it many times over the years (and probably have said it a couple times too).

We all know that people are often difficult to be with, work with, and lead. They can be self-centered, egotistical, critical, needy, stupid, hurtful and so much more (just like you and me). Sometimes it can be so discouraging watching them stumble through life choices despite godly input and advice.

It’s no wonder that we pastors and leaders are often reticent or even scared to get others involved in leadership with us. The potential for conflict, discord, and crisis just doesn’t seem worth it. The idea of inviting other people with all of their internal garbage to join in building the kingdom dream God has given us seems really risky.

Is it possible that it just might BE too risky for you? Jesus cautions us to carefully count the cost before we commit to a cause for Him in Luke 14:28-30.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”

People Risk Taking
Perhaps you don’t really need to hear it, but I am feeling prompted to press the point. If you want to see your ministry grow you must be willing to make some people risks. That means ministry will get more challenging; but it also means your ministry has room for God inspired momentum.

We’ve all heard the verse in proverbs, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests.” Proverbs 14:4.

Clean and empty sounds good, orderly, and predictable; but clean won’t plow the fields. Clean won’t sow the seeds. And clean won’t bring in the harvest. The oxen were critical to the success of the local farmers. Without the oxen and the mess that came with them there would be no farm.

The same is true for your ministry. Without a team of people and growing leaders around you the work of the Lord will not grow and prosper.

You know what those farmers spent a lot of time doing? Cleaning up after the oxen. They didn’t go home and complain to their wives, “Those stupid beasts! Why don’t they just quit crapping all over the place? What’s the deal with them anyway? Farming would be a lot easier without them!”

Hey, if you’ve actually got messes to clean up, thank the Lord, roll up your sleeves, grab a shovel, and dig in. You are pointing in a direction that may well lead towards an abundant harvest.

photo credit: caese via photopin cc

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  • Paul Johansson August 12, 2013  

    In some parts of Africa the bigger the manua pile is outside your house the richer you are. Cows are your wealth!!!
    KEEP SHOVELING!!! God is in-charge!

    • Wayne Hedlund August 13, 2013  

      Thanks for the comment Bro. Paul. I have great memories of your ‘manure pile’ story shared a few years ago at an Elim event! I know you’ve had tons of experience with both cows and people!