I love to think in word pictures. I have no clue whether that's a sign of intelligence of a sign of a lack of intelligence, it's just want I've got going on upstairs.
I've recently had the opportunity to start serving on the staff of a local church. It's been a long journey to get here, and I'm so very thankful to have arrived.
As part of the process of onboarding to this new church, I took several 101 classes, which outline the beliefs and viewpoints that everything happening around the church are built on.
One of the phrases used in this class is: We want to be a base of ministry, not just a place of ministry.
In other words, not just a place where people show up to 'get filled' on Sunday, then hope to make it through the week without hitting empty; but rather to be a place where people are learning to continuously rely on and be filled by the Holy Spirit in their daily lives. The Sunday gatherings are an opportunity to connect with others who are being continually being filled by God's life giving spirit.
It's a viewpoint that I wholly agree with. Having served as a pastor and other ministerial positions, I don't want anyone to rely on my for their own spiritual health. That's a position only Jesus should fill. Some days I'm selfish, or impatient. Faith which depends on me could be weakened by that, and God forbid!
Instead, I took the idea shared in the class above and came up with the picture that church is supposed to be like a garden.
You spend a bunch of time preparing some dirt. You choose an area that won't get trampled, you remove weeds and grass, you turn the dirt over, you fertilize it, you aerate it; then finally you put seeds into it.
But that's not the end of the process.
If you plant tomato seeds, or watermelon seeds, or pumpkin seeds, or mint seeds, or black eyed susan seeds, or any other kind of seed, it's not so that you have a patch of dirt with a bunch of seeds in it. It's so that you end up getting the fruit after the seeds have grown. Maybe that fruit is literal food you can eat, maybe it's herbs or spices, maybe (as in the case of flowers) it's beauty.
Church is like that dirt.
We all together are supposed to prepare it so that plants are able to grow in it. That the Body of Christ would grow and bear fruit.
The pastors and leaders can't make that growth happen any more than we can make plants in a garden grow. Our job is to lead the process of making that plot of group conducive to growth. To turn it over, to keep it safe, to occasionally toss a little manure on there...all so the garden can fulfill its purpose.
The best - the healthiest - a church can be is to become a place which provides opportunity for individual seeds and plants to grow roots and absorb nutrients, in order to turn that into fruit.
If I had a plant which absorbed tons of nutrients, but never produced fruit, as a gardener, I'd pull it out. I'd want the fruit producing crops to get those nutrients.
We grow a garden for beauty and for sustenance.
Likewise, a church should be a source of beauty and sustenance for the community it's a part of, not just for the church itself. Who ever heard of a growing a garden to feed that same garden?
So let us all look for ways to take what our church gives us into ways to benefit those around us.
And let those of us in church leadership work hard to make sure our churches stay dirty.