Talking with a potential church planter recently I got a picture that is either from God or the 64 ounces of Diet Coke I drank that morning. I thought I’d throw it out and let you decide.
The picture is of a field of wild grass and weeds. In order to harvest a crop the field needs to be plowed under, seeds planted and watered and the weeds controlled. Eventually, if everything goes according to plan a crop will come in and the farmer can bring in his combine and harvest the crop. If he skips a step, if he jumps on his John Deere today and attempts to harvest a crop he will get nothing but worthless grass and weeds. If he wants a harvest he only has two choices; go through the long process of plowing, planting, watering and waiting or harvest in another man’s field.
The application is this; I think sometimes in church plants (and in existing churches) we attempt to harvest where we have not plowed, planted, watered or waited. We buy a shiny new harvester and head into the field looking for ripe crops. Sometimes we are very successful and reap huge rewards and sometimes we struggle because we are trying to harvest where no crops have been planted. This has been the template for a successful church plant:
- Find an area where a lot of new people moving in
- Come up with a ultra cool one word name for your new church
- Buy as much state of the art equipment as you can possibly afford
- Hire a hip young worship leader
- Send out thousands of flyers inviting people to your cool, casual, relevant, child-friendly church that isn’t like any of the other cool, casual, relevant, child-friendly churches starting in the neighborhood
- Reap a huge harvest of people who just show up when you open the doors
As long as this model is actually reaching people who aren’t already Christ followers I think we should keep doing it. Once it is no longer effective or if we realize we’re just moving crops from one barn to the next we may have to invest in some new farm machinery.
While I was in Europe I met leaders who are laboring in fields where there are no ripe crops just waiting to be picked. The church planters are deeply engaged in plowing and planting. Some are beginning to see the crops ripen, but others are still waiting for the seeds to sprout. I think a time may be coming in America when we may need to park our harvesters and go back to the much more tedious but equally important task of plowing the field and planting the seed.