Showing posts with label seed. Show all posts
Showing posts with label seed. Show all posts

28 September 2010

THOUGHT - Preparing the ground

< Obtain seeds | Index | Plant the seeds >

In the second part of the series we looked at how we obtain the seeds for the work of planting a church. But the phrase 'planting a church' is loaded with meaning from our past experiences. We'd better define it before we begin to apply it here.

Compost - a good soil improverWe've already decided that a church is a place where brothers and sisters live in harmony in the presence of the King, Jesus. It's not about us gathering, it's about him being among us. He, not we, define church. If he's not at the centre then although it's a gathering, it's not church. So planting a church means setting in place a community where he is at the centre and his people gather around him. That gets the purpose and intention into clear focus.

The seeds are welcoming, open people who are already primed with life but are currently dormant. They may have been dormant for a long time or just for a short while. If we can provide them with the right environment these people will grow - just try and stop them! So we need to look at the environment in which these people (seeds of church) are living.

What we must not do is uproot them from their environment and move them into our environment. That is often what happens but it's a serious mistake. If we move them they may wither in the new environment where they are surrounded by people they don't know. Much wiser to spend time with them amongst their own friends, family, or workmates and try to modify that environment in helpful, encouraging ways. Jesus said that when we are welcomed we should remain there (Luke 10:7). I don't think that necessarily means living in someone's house (though sometimes it will), but it certainly means living in that person's circle instead of drawing them into your own.

Read Luke 10:1-16 and Matthew 10:5-14 carefully and make a note of other things you should do or not do. There's a lot to consider in those verses. Pray about the things you find there and your attitude to those things.

A gardener would assess the situation and so should we. The gardener might notice the soil was too dry, or choked by weeds, or poorly drained, or much too shallow. He would prepare it according to its need by watering it, hoeing out the weeds, adding sand or compost, or building up the level.

We need to be observant, wise, and discerning. We might notice that the 'seed' person isn't reading the Bible, doesn't understand prayer very well, or perhaps hasn't heard or understood Christ's message of good news. We might therefore need to begin a Bible study with them, discuss and model prayer with them, or share the gospel (the good news).

If our discernment is good and what we do is appropriate we will soon begin to see them living more and more abundantly, growing in grace and love and excitement. These are just examples of the kind of thing that may help to prepare the ground. Pray fervently about the seed and your efforts at preparing the soil. Practice listening to the Holy Spirit - he will show you what to do and say. (You might like to use or adapt some of the priciples of CO2, you might consider doing this with the person you are helping, or you could do it with one of your believing friends.)

Look for natural opportunities as Philip did with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 4:26-40). Don't smother people with over-attention, give them breathing space to process what they have already absorbed.

Don't talk about doctrine or traditions or denominations. Focus as much as possible on revealing Christ to the person you are helping. There is so much in the New Testament - how he related to his followers and talked with them, the care and love he showed to those in need, his words on the hillside, Paul's abundant writings about love and other good things. You and the one you are helping will benefit by studying Jesus and spending time with him more than in any other way.

When the conditions are right and as time passes you will find signs of growth and it's likely the person will want to involve other friends or family. Encourage this - the seed is developing a root and a shoot and is already becoming a baby church without prompting from you! HalleluYah!

Next time we'll look at the details of planting the seed.

< Obtain seeds | Index | Plant the seeds >

24 September 2010

THOUGHT - More on the garden

< No earlier items | Index | Prepare the ground >

In the first part of this short series we looked at the steps needed for planting churches. We considered the analogy of planting seeds.

Perhaps the first thing to point out is that the churches (plural) are like a garden (singular). That is the way the Lord put it in my mind and that is how I wrote it down. Here are the words again as I received them, 'Planting churches is like growing a garden.'
A ripe seedhead ready to harvest
There is only one garden, I think that is the crucial point. There is not my garden and your garden, the churches I plant and the ones you plant. There is not the Anglican garden and the Baptist garden and the URC garden and the New Frontiers garden. There is not an English garden, an Italian garden, or an American garden - there is just Yahweh's garden.

The garden where he first walked with his people is the same garden in which he will walk with his people at the end of time. And it's also the same garden in which he walks with his people today. This garden is special not because of what it is, but because of who is in it! It is filled with the glorious presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Will you walk there with him? That's the question. If you will walk with Yahshua (Jesus) you will be walking in the garden; but you cannot go there without him.

So what are the churches that are 'like' this garden? A church is a place where brothers and sisters live in harmony in the presence of the King, Jesus. We can't all be in one place at the same time because we are spread throughout the world and also through time. A church is his people in relationship with Jesus in a local place and time. Wherever and whenever his people gather around him is church. It's not about us gathering, it's about him being among us. He, not we, define church. If he's not at the centre then although it's a gathering, it's not church.

Take these churches in their entirety and they are the garden!

Planting churches
What the Spirit told me was that planting churches is like growing a garden. I'm not an expert on church planting, I might possibly claim that Jesus involved me as several small groups sprang up. But I can see clearly enough the garden-like aspects of the process.

Step 1 - Obtain some seeds
Hmm... Seeds. You can buy seeds in a packet, you can harvest seeds from the previous season's flower heads. But in biological terms the process is the same. Seeds can't be manufactured, they must be collected from the fruits of a previous generation. Providing they're stored properly (kept cool and dry) they will remain alive although they are dormant.

So where should we go to obtain seeds to grow a church? We need to find the 'fruits of a previous generation'. If you take a late summer or early autumn stroll through the fields and along the hedges (or in a garden) you will see seed heads and ripe fruits in abundance. If you know what to look for you can collect seeds easily. If you don't know what to look for you may go away empty handed.

Jesus said, 'Look! The fields are ripe for harvest.' (John 4:34-38) And he said, 'Plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the field'. (Luke 10:1-12) Take him at his word! He gives detailed instructions in those verses. Read them. Pray.

There are 'seeds' out there, people already primed with life but dormant. Forget the idea that you have to go out and 'convert' people. People come alive when the Creator breathes his Spirit into them. It's not your job to fill people with life - it's his job.

Your job is to walk the fields and hedgerows of this world, recognising dormant life and collecting those containing it. You are a seed collector and you have been commanded to call out for the provision of more seed collectors. Together you will collect an abundant harvest of seeds.

Jesus sent out his followers in pairs to walk the fields and hedgerows. And he told them what to look for - 'peaceful people'. They were to look for people who would welcome them, house them, feed them - generous, giving, open people. People like that are already alive. They are alive but dormant. When you find them stay with them. If you don't find them try again in another place, don't even take the dust with you when you leave. Life came from dust and returns to dust. Where there is no life there is only dust - leave it behind.

If you look you will find these peaceful people in many places and at many times through your life. They're out there! Learn to recognise them, begin to notice them, but don't rush on - stay with them. And remember, where you go the Lord has already gone ahead of you.

So think about going out and collecting seeds and next time we'll begin to consider what we should do with these living, dormant seeds once we have found them.

The next post will take a look at preparing the ground for planting.

< No earlier items | Index | Prepare the ground >

23 September 2010

THOUGHT - Planting churches

The Spirit showed me that planting churches is like growing a garden. Maple seedling He said there are particular steps to be taken, and that the analogy is complete. Here's the process he set before me.
  1. Obtain some seeds.
  2. Prepare the ground.
  3. Plant the seeds.
  4. Water them at intervals.
  5. Protect them from birds and mice and insects.
  6. Watch them grow.
  7. Remove diseased leaves or shoots. If necessary pull out badly damaged plants and remove them.
  8. Enjoy the display of life and colour.
  9. If they've been encouraged and nurtured in the right way, they will naturally produce and scatter seed for the next generation.
There's also a 'do not'.
  • Do not micromanage the plants or try to conform them to your expectations. You will stunt them and they will grow misshapen and may not flower and set seed.
So there you have it, all you need to know in outline about planting churches. But of course there is every need to put some flesh on the bare bones of those steps. Over the next few days I'll explore the area covered by each of those points. The next post will take a look at how to obtain seeds.

Meanwhile I'd love to have your comments - how do you think the points relate to the practical work of planting real churches?

See also: The series on No-till farming by Miguel at Pathways International

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