Building the Lord’s Body Requires Time and Patience
Understanding time and the need for patience, especially with respect to building the Lord’s body, seems to be a mark of maturity. Young Christians (and especially young preachers who need seasoning) may not realize the amount of time and patience necessary. Very often, our zeal and enthusiasm (while a necessary quality—Titus 2:14) may rush us into thinking that building the Lord’s body can be done quickly, and we become impatient.
Consider the amount of time, patience, and care that God put into the scheme of redemption. When Adam and Eve committed the first human sin in Genesis 3, Jesus did not come to die for them immediately, but rather, a calculated plan of salvation went into effect. This plan, which Paul described, “According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:11), took thousands of years to execute. “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4). The point is that God demonstrated time and patience Himself, so when we see Peter preaching on the Pentecost, and more than three thousand responded appropriately, we understand that much preparation went into that occasion.
Consider another example. We often see the wonderful effects of Philip and his preaching in Samaria in Acts 8 as both men and women were baptized as a result of him preaching Christ and the things concerning the kingdom of God. Nevertheless, we may forget the work that Jesus Himself did in Samaria just months prior in John 4. As the conversation between Jesus and a Samaritan woman led into Jesus teaching and influencing many Samaritans, many of them believed on Him. As a matter of fact, they were successful in persuading him to stay two more days. Look at the saturating work that Jesus was doing in preparing the hearts of the people. Therefore, when Philip comes along months later, his success with the preaching of the gospel and his Christ- centered message is directly related to the groundwork that Jesus had already performed. Together, these show that building the body of Christ takes time and often patience.
Jesus illustrated the role of teaching and preaching as sowing the seed in Matthew 13. Farmers understand quite well the need for time and patience that goes with planting and harvesting a crop. After planting the seeds, farmers do not expect to begin harvesting the next day, but they must exercise patience before the plants even sprout above the ground, much less develop to the point of producing fruit ready for harvest. So it is with building the Lord’s body. While we understand the tremendous promise that God gave us:
For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isa. 55:10-11)
We also know that such is not promised with immediate results. Sometimes, the results are not seen for years.
From my experience, some of the most effective preachers have been those who have labored many years in one location. They have patiently labored in the community to the point that even non-Christians in the community know and recognize them. They have worked patiently to develop a good name in that locality, and it is often after working longer than a decade that they reap their greatest harvest. Why? It is because building the Lord’s body requires time and patience. I believe it was the late William Woodson who expressed, “It will take preaching ten to twenty years to undo ten to twenty years’ worth of problems.” Such is very often true.