Sovereign Seeds, Unknown Deeds


Someone once told me:

“You’re just a little local pastor at a tiny nowhere church — what do YOU know?”

I wish I could tell you I recovered quickly from this one and made all kinds of God-declarations like “He uses the smallest of us in ways we can’t see” and that I remembered I was uniquely handcrafted by God to serve my corner of the universe.

But I didn’t do this. I was devastated.

I believed what the guy said over what God says.

A little local pastor at a tiny nowhere church.  So what do I know?

The guy was right.  The truth is, I really am a nobody pastor at a tiny nowhere church.  I’ve hardly preached to a crowd of over one-hundred.  I have a modest little podcast and this blog with a few followers, and that’s it. I really don’t know much.


Do you know who else feels this way?

Well, pretty much everyone.

It’s easy to feel like you’re the only guy who God has overlooked, that somehow God can’t see you, that He’s not opening doors for you, that He’s not giving you the “big break.”

I’m guessing the megachurch pastor down the street is choked by the same insecurities.  He might have a larger scale — “I haven’t even published a book yet, we only had 800 people last week” — but I can guarantee he’s struggling with the same self-condemning loop in his head.

Your Sunday service could’ve been drowned in musical failures, sermon misfires, and the ordinary small-town drama.  A Bible study didn’t land and the kid’s service was a trainwreck.  You’re not sure if anyone else is growing, including yourself. 

I got to thinking: this is all a pretty ridiculous amount of pressure we put on ourselves.  And for what?  Sure, we’re called to grow our churches and be effective and reach out to the city — but if our motive is to go from a little known Christian to a better known Christian, then it doesn’t matter if we succeed anyway.  An effective church is not everything; a faster donkey is still a jackass.


Really everything that God says about you is true, no matter what’s happening around you.  You truly are a unique handcrafted masterpiece who has been placed by God to be engaged and present where you are. 

If you’re teaching five people at a Bible study, if you have twenty followers on your blog, if your church hasn’t grown past fifty, and if you don’t even have a book published yet — you are still a vehicle for God to flex His power as a force for good in the universe.  God is still in the business of using weak, frail, broken, empty, unknown people for His glorious story on the earth.  If God spoke through a jackass, certainly He can work through you and me.

I can’t tell you how many times I thought I bombed a sermon, messed up a song, or fumbled a Bible study — but God graciously sowed that seed anyway, even days and weeks and years later.  We don’t hear about the other end very often, but when we do, it is nothing short of God’s miraculous power. 

He is sowing.  He is sovereign.  He is doing His wildly wonderful work in you, not by the flip of a switch, but by the journey of a seed pushing through the dirt into the warmth of sunlight.

And if you still feel like no one knows you — God does.

If you feel like you know nothing — God knows you.

If God alone is not enough when you’re not successful, then nothing will be enough even when you do have success.

Serve that tiny place.  Be okay behind the scenes.  We need the unsung heroes.  We need you.

— J.S.

18 thoughts on “Sovereign Seeds, Unknown Deeds

  1. Great post brother. Be filled with courage and focussed on God’s provision and direction. Success is measured by obedience and faithfulness, not numbers, buildings and finaces.


  2. What goes unnoticed here on earth pays huge dividends in Heaven, and that is where I want my treasure stored. Us “small-timers” have a voice, we have a purpose, and we make an impact when and where we least expect it! It is hard not to take those words and let them eat at us, and we all do feel overlooked. Someone once told me that we are all alotted our portion to carry and we are not to envy the portion of another. Hard at times not to make that comparison game, but there is more than one way to measure success. I can focus on those hurtful words, or focus on what my Father says. He’s not failed me yet, so I choose to listen to him. Great Post!


  3. This is fantastic and I can promise you I will be looking at interjecting “a faster donkey is still a jackass” into my next conversation – classic! I gain clarity and perspective every time I read one of your posts. You have amazing talent for this ministry. Thankful for the inspiration you give to many, including myself.


    1. Thank you again for your very kind words. I said “jackass” once in a sermon and the congregation looked at me like I had grown a third arm out of my head.


  4. Those who SEEM to be the least are MUCH MORE needed! Not too many were in his congregation at the foot of the cross, Paul was alone in his hour of need. I love your quote from Luther. Oh that it were no longer I who live but Christ living through me. There can be advantages of seeming small, I SEEM to be much in some eyes and yet in me dwells no good thing apart from Christ.


    1. Yes! I’m totally okay with big churches and “large small groups,” but it’s so tempting to measure success this way. I think King David got in trouble for that once.


  5. “A faster donkey is still a jackass!” Loved that truth. I find that the world’s fascination with numbers…followers, books written, attendees, etc. is hard to keep out of my mind when I’m doing anything. The truth is that we never know when the lone attendee could become the next Billy Graham…and all his work accrued to our credit (I love God’s accounting system!).

    Great post, as usual! 🙂



    1. I’ve definitely seen the hurt caused by pastors and leaders who treat “small events” with a sort of halfhearted disdain. Often pastors will wait for the big fancy events to give it their all, when we know it’s wrong. Not that I get this right every time, but I remember preaching to just three or four people on Friday nights for a year or so, and I preached my guts out.


  6. Your post stands on its own, and the comments it stimulated I also treasure.Besides, it’s why I want to be cremated (after I die!) because I so often made an “ash” of myself…


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