There's nothing as comforting as a roaring fire in the fireplace on a cold snowy day. The crackling heat warms the house and creates a relaxing ambiance. Over the last couple of weeks as I have spent many hours sitting by the fire, I've noticed some important things. Creating the perfect fire requires the right kindling, a lighter or match, and seasoned dry wood. It is next to impossible to start a fire with damp firewood.
However, with the ice and snow, much of our wood is dripping wet. Figuring out how to make the most of our dry wood requires expertise and experience. Once a fire is roaring hot, it is then possible to burn wet wood. The wet wood must be added gradually so that the fire does not go out. The majority of the fire must contain dry wood in order to maintain the appropriate level of heat for the home.
As I was using a blow dryer to melt some snow on a stick of wood so that I could start a fire last week, I realized that building a fire with wet wood is similar in many ways to ministry. I see many ministers walk into dying churches and attempt either to abruptly change everything in sight or to surrender God's will to the will of a negative minority, hoping to pacify critics. I realized that is a little like trying to start a fire with wet wood.
Ministers who successfully grow a declining church use their experience, expertise, and God's power to ignite excitement and change. They build on the fire of success to create excitement and passion in an ever expanding circle of people. Drawing in critics is like burning wet wood. It works best when it occurs in small numbers. Negative people become less negative as they are isolated from others who agree with their negativity. As critics see others burn with passion for Christ, they tend to eventually come along as well. It is important to surround apathetic believers with those who are burning brightly for Christ. Encouragement from others is a power that should not be underestimated.
I'm sure there are many other parallels that could be established here, but the wet wood made me think of the many ministers that become discouraged because they cannot ignite a passionate fire in the hearts of apathetic believers (wet wood). I would encourage those ministers to expend their energy working with those who are ready to follow Christ with passion, and create opportunities for those who are apathetic to encounter the fire of those who are burning brightly.
Bottom line: Galatians 6:9, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Even wet wood can catch on fire.