Prerequisites to Building and Planting

“Then the Lord put forth his hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant'” (Jeremiah 1:9,10).
Mission fields, like domestic regions, sometimes have those professing to be Christians who are in truth hypocrites, insincere, and even apostate. Just as in domestic works, such fallen Christians must be recognized and disciplined appropriately according to Scripture. If they are, as sometimes happens, preachers or other leaders, working relationships may need to be severed and in extreme cases Christian fellowship withdrawn. I have been involved with such disciplinary actions in at least 8 cases in 3 countries over the past few months, and it is a traumatic and disturbing experience on both sides. In families, when a loving parent disciplines a child, it really does hurt the parent more than (or at least as much as) the child. So also in our Christian relationships, disciplining a beloved brother or sister is extremely painful, but also necessary. One’s heart may well be broken when a co-worker for years must be marked and avoided (Romans 16:17), no matter the reality and seriousness of his sins.
Jeremiah was called to the ministry of prophecy and warned at the very beginning that there would be destructive elements to his work. Just as the farmer must clear forest to obtain open fields for planting crops, so prophets, preachers, missionaries, and other workers must eliminate competitive beliefs and practices to acquire open hearts and minds for the word of God. One cannot build something new and better without removing any previously existing obstructions.
Some, however, have focused upon the negative component as if it is the primary goal of ministry. Every energy and effort are expended “to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down” with little apparent attempt to build or plant once the area is cleared. Cutting down trees does not define the work of a farmer. He may need to cut some down, but that is simply preliminary to his real job, that of planting and harvesting crops. Without the positive gain of harvest, the clearing of the forest is simply waste and abuse of natural resources.
So in our disciplinary efforts, whether in the mission field or domestically, just “getting rid” of offending workers or members is never our goal. It is the salvation of souls — both theirs, if possible, and those of others. False workers hinder our efforts, but once they are “marked” the effort to preach and build must continue. Jeremiah was called “to build and to plant.” The unpleasant work of removing hindrances was simply the prerequisite.

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