Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Right Soil

The parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-9 and parallels) has some important things to say about sowing seed in the right place.  There is plenty of good ground in the parable, but an equal amount of soil that doesn't work.  Some seed falls on the path, some in rocky, and some in thorny ground - but there are three lots of good ground, yielding thirty grains, sixty grains and a hundred grains.

Alan Roxburgh (in Missional Map-Making, Jossey-Bass, 2010, p. 140) offers an interesting take on this when he talks of "the soil in which most of our churches have grown" as being "like the packaged soils one buys from garden centres that are crammed full of chemical compounds that will ensure vigorous growth without any trouble whatsoever.  The parallel in so many churches is that the "soil" in which they are planted is all about strategies for growth in numbers or meeting individual needs or shaped around some form of worship or programmes for multisite church life.  This kind of soil has been developed to yield church members who serve in programmes and agree with the vision, mission and goals of a church staff or board.  Such soil does not produce environments in which people believe the Spirit is shaping a new world through the ordinary lives and imaginations of the people themselves.  The soil we have to cultivate needs the nutrients that give back to our people the conviction that church is a safe place for them to be who they are, to dream and to believe that from within their lives can come forth the imagination of the Spirit for their communities and neighbourhoods."

I agree that we try too hard to manufacture church - instead of letting the Spirit provoke it.  We need to allow more room for imagination and to realise that God is the initiator of the church and will take it where it needs to be.  God chooses to use us - that's great - but is able, when necessary, of operating in spite of us: and God is doing great things, even when we don't recognise them.

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