Bering Sea Gold is a show on the Discovery Channel about dredging for gold. Have you seen any episodes? I had not heard of it until I read about it in a book my wife is reading about motherhood. (Don’t judge me. It’s a good book.) These guys dredge for gold using scoop equipment and big hoses to suck up sand and sediment from the sea floor. Screening through all the sediment they somehow draw out the flecks of gold, melt it down, and collect their fortune.

Hearing about this, one wonders why everyone doesn’t get into this business. However, before each segment a warning is given that reads: “Offshore dredging for gold is not a get-rich-quick opportunity. It is expensive and dangerous. Most people who try, fail. Some have died. You do not want to dredge without extensive knowledge and training.” After watching part of an episode, I believe it.

The author of the motherhood book uses this for an illustration about parenting. But I thought how this connects to ministry too. Living in the midst of a community being formed in Christ is like spreading gold dust on a silty seabed. One hopes after these lives are unearthed and fiery trials assault the mud and dust strewn around that something of real value emerges–the life of Jesus.

As we work in the church we like to try to drop hunks of gold onto people. We attempt to deposit in big lumps. But the life of Christ is not dropped on people like that. The gold of Jesus comes in flecks and dustings. It is the short prayer. It is a personal note. It is an unscripted comment in a sermon. It is a phone call. It is a breakfast meeting. It is an affirming word. It is an acknowledged wrong. It is the conversation after church. It is the challenge. It is a pointed question. It is remembering. It is being confronted. It is consistency. It is knowing people. It is life.

So keep scattering gold dust. Working in the church is not a get-rich-quick opportunity. It is costly and hazardous. A lot of people fail. Some have died. You don’t want to do it without knowledge and training and the power of the Spirit. But if we keep at it we’ll end up with something pretty valuable.