Article: Digging Wells and Planting Churches

Digging Wells and Planting Churches

            As we live the Christian life, we must remember that it is a life of faith in Christ and a life dependant on Him. Believing in the unseen with as much trust as in the things we can see. It’s a life of living in this world but longing for the next. It’s loving those around us but supremely loving Christ. It’s also a life of discontent with what the world has to offer because we believe the true and everlasting treasure is Jesus. Living a life of faith is vital for the Christian. Paul is a great example of someone living in this world but longing for the next.   

He wrote,

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,  [7] for we walk by faith, not by sight.  [8] Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  [9] So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 2 Cor. 5:6-9 (ESV) 

            One way we manifest walking by faith and not by sight is when we acknowledge our complete dependence on the Lord. We do this best when we pray. Prayer is the keyhole that we look through catching small glimpses of the world to come and longing to be there. As we speak with the God of the universe in prayer, He begins to change our worldly focus to an eternal focus. The more we get God’s vision for our lives, the more the unseen comes into focus and the more the seen begins to loose its grip on our hearts.

            Walking by faith is doing right things with an awareness of our dependence on God. Working hard in the Lord’s harvest field must be coupled with fervent prayer to the Lord of that harvest. Without prayer we labor in vain. It’s much like Jesus said “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” We can do a lot of things that may seem good to us but none will count unless Jesus is leading.

            The great missionary, John Paton was a man of hard labor and a man of hard prayer. He knew the connection between faithful labor and faithful prayer. From his diary and other accounts we have the story of the well he dug on the South Sea Island of Aniwa, where he served.

            The dire need on the Island was the Gospel and water. Living water was desperately needed for the soul and flowing water was desperately needed for the body. The chief and the other natives thought that Paton was going mad when he told them that by digging this well his God would provide drinking water for the village. Scoffing, their reply was that rain only comes from the sky not from the ground.

            In the midst of their unbelief, Paton began to dig. Day after day he dug and day after day he prayed. Paton’s God, the Lord of heaven and earth, would provide water when the false gods of the island culture had always failed to supply water. Living water was what he prayed for from the depths of the dry well. After many days and thirty feet of digging, Paton noticed the dirt was getting damp. The coral and sand being brought out of the well was moist! Returning to the village that evening, he told those who did not believe, “I think tomorrow Jehovah will give us water”. The response of the chief was “No Missi, you will never get water from the earth.”

            At daybreak, Paton sunk a small two foot deep hole in the center of the well, he dug until he was forced to stop. Water! Water rushed into the well. He filled a tiny tin cup with the muddy water and touched his tongue to it to see if the Lord would bless with fresh drinking water. The water was fresh! He fell to his knees as he praised the Lord for fresh flowing water. The chief and his people soon began to gather rocks to lay along the wall of the well. Paton’s response was, “See the rain Jehovah supplied?”

            After that, many other attempts were made by the inhabitants of the island to provide drinking water by digging wells. None provided fresh water. God had heard the prayers of this missionary who toiled and prayed, working and depending on the Lord to provide the water needed. The chief commented to his people who tried to dig fresh water wells, “You dig well, but you don’t pray well.” He saw the power of God and a missionary walking by faith. The sinking of the well on the Island of Aniwa broke the back of heathenism. By the time of Paton’s death the Island had become Christian.

            I’m discovering slowly but surly that church planting is in many ways a lot like digging a well, longing for fresh water in the middle of an ocean of salt water. It’s very difficult work with many onlookers who are scratching their heads in disbelief. I can labor and do what seems right but if my labor is not coupled with prayer and in total dependence on the Lord, I labor in vain. May the Lord grant us a well of fresh water for the people of Chillicothe.

            Beginning in September, the Elders have graciously given me the green light to take this work on full time. Bigelow Church is a very vital part of this project. My prayer has been that this project would be good for the folks in Chillicothe and, at the same time, be good for the people at Bigelow. We need your continued prayer so desperately. I’m looking forward to how the Lord will bless as we labor together, walking by faith and by prayer.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Brian

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