What comes to mind when you read the word "automatic"?
I came across the term in Mark 4:28 "All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head." The phrase "all by itself" is αυτοματη (transliterated is "automate' "). We get our words "automatic" and "automatically" from this Greek term. It is used only one other time in the New Testament--Acts 12:10 "They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him." You recall this is Peter being led out of prison by an angel. The iron gate opened automatically (same word found in Mark- αυτοματη).
Back to Mark 4:28. Jesus is telling another "seed" parable. This time he highlights the energy in the combination of soil and seed. Something automatically happens; something is done "by itself," that is, without the farmer's help. The farmer sows and sleeps, sows and sleeps and things happen beyond his control and without his contribution.
Jesus is speaking about "the kingdom of God." Mysterious forces are released that even the farmer does not know. He does his part, but then the seed and soil do so much more. The seed is and must be out of his hands.
In pragmatic USAmerican evangelicalism, the last thing we truly believe is that if we let go, God, in his creative mysteries, will still be at work. We are conditioned to believe that we've got to "run things," "be in charge," "make things happen," "take the hill."
We, leaders and pastors, think and act like we have to have our grubby little fingers all over people's growth in God. We analyze growth, systematize growth, facilitate growth, calculate growth, evaluate growth, ad nauseum. Because of our entrenched pragmatism and the itch for quick results, we stupidly try to hasten growth. We transfer the concept--"automatically"--to our frenzied methods hoping that the right "steps" and "fill-in-the-blanks" will promote transformation. We forfeit the restful contentment that God is doing what we could never do.
We resist hiddenness, seasonal slowness, and mysterious energies we can't control. We want harvest yesterday. Yet, God will not be "automatically" tied to our hurried methods. We either adjust to him and his ways or lose sleep and drive people crazy urging them to grow.
Don't get me wrong. We aren't called to be lazy. That is nowhere in Jesus' parable. We must do our part. We should do it well and faithfully. Yet, God, also, has his part to do. Some plant, others water, yet God and God alone brings the increase. We can sleep on it.