This week I have been privileged to attend the SPARK Conference 2017 at First Baptist Church Woodstock. My goal in this conference is to grow, learn, and motivate myself in a daily effort to become a better disciple-maker and a better pastor.

            One question that was asked today has really captured my attention. The question was asked by Robby Gallaty, Senior Pastor at Long Hollow Baptist Church and disciple-making strategist. Robby is also the director of Replicate Ministries. Consider this question with me:

                      Do you want to grow an oak tree or are you satisfied in growing a squash?

            This question applies to almost every area of the leader’s life. It can apply to the life of a businessman or business woman, it can apply to any spouse, but it most certainly applies to those of us in ministry.  

            I absolutely love eating squash, especially if it is fried. It takes careful consideration to fry a good squash. My grandmother could always fry squash that, as they say, “was so good it would make your liver quiver”! I never thought anyone would be able to match my grandmother’s touch in frying squash. About three and a half years ago, the Lord blessed me with a woman skilled in frying squash. Praise God, that woman is my wife! Did I say I love fried squash? You would think that something as tasty as this little, yellow vegetable would take a little time to produce. To my surprise, it takes only 50 days to grow a squash! Now, this squash doesn’t have the ability to reproduce itself. If a squash is to grow, it must be tended by a gardener. Once the squash has been fried and eaten, it is gone. Its effect on our lives only last through the time lapsed in the digestion process. If we grow families, businesses, and churches that are “squash” they will never reproduce themselves and they will never impact our world with a lasting effect.

            I love eating squash, and I love spending time in the “Deer Woods”. When I am sitting in my stand, one of my favorite things to observe is the handiwork of God’s creation. Every good hunter in the state of Georgia knows that you need to put your hunting stand in the location of a food source and if possible a water source. One of the most popular food sources is the source that we don’t have to create ourselves. The man-made feeders and troughs are effective, but not as effective as the natural food source. One of the greatest sources of the “Deer Woods” is the oak tree. The oak tree, unlike the squash, takes 20-30 years to fully mature. Once fully mature, the oak tree begins to produce its first acorn. When the hunting season arrives, the oak tree begins to scatter its acorns on the ground, hopefully drawing in a “Bullwinkle” for me to admire, harvest, and then take up space on the wall in my man-cave. As these acorns are scattered, those that are not eaten by the wild life will bury up in the ground through the process of erosion and will eventually begin to produce more oak trees. What I want us to consider is that an oak tree takes a long time to develop, but once it is developed, it has the awesome ability to create a forest!

            In your ministry, in your life, in your business, do you want to grow an oak tree or a squash? Will you commit to the long-haul knowing that there are no short cuts? The process takes time, but the result of the time spent is well worth it. It is my prayer that at the end of your life, your ministry, your business you will have planted an oak tree that has reproduced itself into a forest. This is the goal I am trying to accomplish in the ministry God has entrusted to me. We will stay busy, we will stay focused, we will make disciples. When we are gone, the forest will still be here, and it will continue the process we started when we decided to plant and grow an oak tree instead of a squash.