The Mission of the Church Found in a Garden!
As a pastor and father Saturday night is usually a little unusual. I don’t stay out late. Our family tries not to go anywhere we don’t really have to. And we try to get the whole family to bed a little earlier than the rest of the week. So, this last Saturday evening, at the dinner table, I was once again explaining to the kids why we did this. And trying to build a little enthusiasm for this I said, ‘We all need our rest because tomorrow is Church Day!” My three year old daughter turned her head a little sideways, with a bit of a puzzled look. I expected a thorough three year old rebuttal. But then with great enthusiasm and volume she shouted, “No Daddy, tomorrow is Garden Day!” Something stopped me from correcting her. And I’m glad I didn’t correct her.
For the last few years the Children’s Ministry at our church has planted and tended a garden during the summer months. The food raised goes to a local mission to augment what they provide to the hungry in our community. It has become one of the best ministries in our whole church and many of the kids absolutely love it. On Sunday mornings during what is typically the Sunday School hour our kids go outside and work in the garden. Imagine the agricultural metaphors from Scripture coming alive; the lessons that can be taught between the rows of corn and squash and zucchini. Maybe we can learn something about the mission of the church in the tending of a garden…
Perhaps this is an inspiration from the Holy Spirit, perhaps not, but I think we do find something of the mission of the Church in the garden. Consider these four garden tasks: planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting as the basics of garden work. Now I know there can be a lot more to it, but these four tasks cover the basics. You have to plant the seed or seedling. And seeds don’t grow into thriving plants without the watering. Weeds always threaten to choke out the life of the plants. And eventually you’ll have the fruit of the vine to harvest. Yes, maybe this is a great metaphor for the mission of the church!
Consider it this way:
- Planting. The mission of the church is to plant seeds of faith in the lives of people. The church is to plant seeds of the Kingdom of God in a harsh and dry world. The mission of the church begins with planting.
- Watering. Immediately after planting seeds of faith the mission of the church becomes watering those seeds. Providing the best environment possible for those seeds to germinate and take root. Environments where the Sprit of God can rain upon the people, where they can be nourished in the life of faith.
- Weeding. And yes, the mission of the church includes pulling a few weeds. Pointing out, in love, where we fall short. And, on occasion protection from those who would damage these new seeds of faith will be necessary. Weeds of distraction, bad theologies, and poor practices can choke the life right out of newly budding life of faith. And the church has always had the task of weed pulling before it!
- Harvesting. The fruit of new belief. The fruit of deepened belief and relationship. Harvesting! That’s where the mission of the church leads us; the harvest. Planting, watering, weeding, have no effect unless there is a harvest. A harvest of those who were once far from faith becoming believers. A harvest of those who were once nominal in the faith becoming mature. A harvest is the mission of the church.
So what do you think? Do you see the mission of the church in a garden? Is your church focused on planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting? Or has something else taken the place of the mission of the church? Do you have a better metaphor? I’d love to hear it!
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Grace and Peace, Rich