"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth." - 1 Corinthians 3:6-7
Pastors love comparing and contrasting. We can be egregiously defensive and overly protective. We hate criticism and being evaluated by others. Tell us about your marital strife, your financial problems, your spiritual doubt and we'll rush to your side and be ready to minister to you. But don't you dare tell us about how much you loved the worship service of the church down the street or that Reverend So-and-so whose sermon you listened to was one of the best you heard all month. Because we're the jealous type.
There were all kinds of divisions within the Corinthian church that sent groups of people scattering in all directions. One of the big ones was the issue of which "spiritual leader" people chose to follow. Dispute arose about whose message should have the most sway. The dirty secret for a lot of us in ministry is that while most of us can put up a front of respect and equality for co-laborers in the gospel and even say a nice word or two about others, deep down, there rages a pride monster that wants to be fed. It's a sinful desire that wants to be wanted, that desires influence and power because MY VOICE NEEDS TO BE HEARD.
Paul's voice in this passage is so refreshing. It's a man who is self-forgetful, who is so filled up in Christ that he's fine with not being front and center. He's ok with not getting credit, deserved or undeserved. He knows who he ultimately must answer to, who deserves the glory, honor, and praise.
Furthermore, Paul goes a step further and demonstrates a kingdom-mindedness that gets lost within pastoral ministry. Not only does he refuse to see Apollos as a threat to his work, he recognizes and acknowledges the benefit and blessing of Apollos' ministry. He celebrates it and sees them working alongside each other though they don't intentionally do so. I cannot begin to re-tell all the stories I have seen firsthand of pastors who are pent up with anger, saying, "How dare they plant their church in my neighborhood," the spiritual equivalent of GET OFF MY LAWN. It's silly to think that while we teach that life in the Christian faith is entirely a work of God from beginning to end yet we often don't see our church work in the same light.
God's power is strong enough to work in many people in a myriad of surprising ways. God's grace is surprising enough that we should always be in awe and appreciation of what He does in the lives of others through God-given talents and gifts. God's love is deep enough that we can rest assured that in Jesus, we don't need to mark our lives by performance or personality. God's mercy is real enough that even when we get caught up in building our own kingdoms instead of rejoicing in God's, there is forgiveness for our foolishness.