Gateway is starting a community garden this Spring. The purpose is to grow food for the people who participate in it and have enough left over to give to the poor through our food pantry and other venues. But, I have another reason for it. I hope that it will be living metaphor for how the church is to function and through participating in it, we will learn more about God, each other, the church, and our relationship to the world. God has called us to co-labor with Him and to help steward the earth. We see the original mandate in Genesis 1:26-28 and our experience here on this planet is to be lived in an ever growing relationship with God and others as we find ways to be creative, reflect His glory, and display His beauty. Of course, Sin introduced weeds and thistles and blight and pests into God's Creation, but Christ has come to relcaim the land and to establish His Kingdom through His life, death, and resurrection. Spring is the time of year that we think about resurrection and fruitfulness and sowing and reaping. So, we are planting a garden and I think that the garden is an apt metahpor for the church as we live as the people of God.
I have heard a lot about how the church is to operate like a Fortune 500 company with a CEO and business plans and organizational and leadership strategies. We go to the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit every year and that is pretty much the value system articulated there. I like a lot of this because I believe in planning and structure and goals and organization. We make a mistake when the think that "organic" means "nebulous." Nature has structure – highly complex structure, actually. So, The Garden metaphor for church is not opposed to structure and organization and planning. It actually requires it. But, the mistake that a lot of people make is that they try to either drive the church like a herd of cattle or they fossilize the church like a statue to preserve it so stays the same and can withstand the changing nature of culture. The correct response, I think, is to position the church in a way that it can grow, adapt, transform, and reflect what God is doing both in the church and in the community and culture.
Last night, we had a small group leaders training meeting and I told them that THEY were the front lines of ministry for our church. They would be the ones who would be aware of what God was doing in people's lives, what the challenges were, and where the ministry opportunities were found. They could lead, initiate, and spontaneously reproduce. They are to collaborate together to engage in the Misson of God as they sacrificially love God and people everywhere they go. How they do that is basically up to them. Our church is healthy when we have branches growing in many different directions as the Spirit leads and produces fruit. But, when a branch doesn't bear fruit or ceases to produce life, it is probably time for us to put our energy elsewhere. Jesus is the Gardener and He prunes us where we need pruninng and He directs us where we need to go as He positions us to offer gifts to God and the world.
So, I like the Garden metaphor and I look forward to what we will learn together in this experience. I think that we will gain insight into Jesus' ways of living as we work together, sacrifice, stick our hands in the ground, and plant, water, wait, and harvest. I think that the church looks more like a Garden than an assembly line.
Plus, I really like fresh tomatoes.