Fruit for the future

One of the hardest things as a youth pastor, and I’m assuming as a parent, is releasing your kids to go out to make their mark on the world.

You spend years investing time, energy and money into them. You lovingly guide and direct them in the hopes that your compassionate care and nurturing will help them become productive members of society.

In one of nature’s dirtier tricks, just when you get them to a point where they are fully functioning humans, they leave. It’s like spending years of your life cultivating a fruit tree in your backyard only to move away just as it begins producing fruit. Someone is going to get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. It just won’t be you.

This summer, I’ve had the honor and privilege of joining two of my “kids” from my time as a youth pastor in West Virginia. They joined me on work trips to West Frankfort and Washington, D.C. Both of these men are now serving as youth and/or worship pastors in their respective communities.

It was fun to talk about “the good old days” when they were both students in my youth group and to reflect on the path that took them from passive observers to active leaders. It was an absolute joy to watch them invest in young people in the present in much the same way as my team and I had invested in them in the past. For a moment, God gave me the gift of enjoying some of the fruits of our labors.

Multiplication and replication are at the core of our mandate as humanity. In the beginning, God told the woman and man to “be fruitful and multiply.” Too often, we reduce this to simple reproduction, having babies. I would argue, however, that the calling isn’t to make babies but to produce people. The real work is cultivating the content of a person’s soul so that they might grow into all that God intends for them to be.

While this is without question the role of the nuclear family, it is also a central part of the purpose of the local church. We’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village.” The church must be that village.

The church must be a family founded on faith, lovingly, humbly and graciously investing the resources available to us in the cultivation of the lives of the generations that God has entrusted to our care. They are the ones who will carry the hope of the good news of Jesus into the future.

There is a quote in the smash hit musical “Hamilton” that hits me hard every time I hear it. The protagonist, Alexander Hamilton, says, “Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.”

As we invest ourselves in others, we must do so understanding that we may not receive the long-term benefits of our efforts, but doing the work is a reward in itself. We may not receive the fruit of their lives, but they are the fruit of ours.

While there is great sadness in seeing “our kids” leave and head out into the world without us, there is no greater blessing than seeing them thriving and producing on their own. It’s always cool to watch a kid come to a new understanding and do it with your assistance. There is nothing better, however, than to know that they have chosen to carry on and continue to do it in your absence.

This week, my boys are leading worship and investing in the lives of young people at a Mission Serve trip in Charleston, West Virginia, without me. There’s a part of me that’s sad that I can’t be there with them. There’s a bigger part of me that is incredibly proud to know they’re doing it without me.

I don’t personally get to benefit from the fruit of their lives, but there are hundreds of teenagers that will. They will hear and experience the hope and love of Jesus because of the efforts of these men.

As the apostle John wrote in 3 John 1:4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Our investment in others today will produce the fruit that will impact the world tomorrow. We may not get to experience it, but the world will be better for it.

The Rev. Dr. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at Send comments to [email protected].