But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:18
Late last year, my husband took a different job and we moved back home. Home where we spent the first seven years of our married life, where he had grown up and just across the river from where I grew up. For the intervening twenty years, we lived in a rural community surrounded by farmland (with an oil refinery, too). Now we’re back where the farm is right outside the door. My husband’s family farmed and his brothers still do. We don’t have the acreage so we garden. All of this gives us plenty of opportunity to see how plants grow. Those lessons help us understand how we grow as believers and give us some things to consider that will help us grow. So over then next weeks we’re going to look at the things a plant must have in order to grow — like good dirt, water, light and protection — and think about how that applies to us.
We’ll start by considering the soil we plant in. To give our plants the best chance to grow and thrive, they need good soil. Not hard, compacted clay. Not loose sand, but rich dirt, full of nutrients and organic compounds. We need dirt that will allow the roots to grow, that has a balanced pH, and that’s not full of rocks and other junk. But before we can plant anything, the soil must be plowed, disked, and dragged. So composition, constitution and preparation.
Now the best analogy in the lives of believers for the dirt we plant in is the church. What kind of composition, constitution and preparation can help us grow?
Composition – The body of Christ needs to be rich and full of nutrients so that believers grow. Rich in mercy, like God (Ephesians 2:4), rich in good works (1 Timothy 6:18) and rich in faith (James 2:5). The Word of God must be the source of our nourishment, whether from the pulpit or in a small group. Just like the soil pH has to be balanced, we have balance uplift and encouragement with correction and admonition. (2 Timothy 3:16)
Constitution – How is the body put together? Is it difficult to learn and grow? The body of Christ needs pastors and teachers gifted by the Holy Spirit who rely on Him as they prepare. (I’ve had occasion to visit a lot of churches and classes in the last few years. They have all been led by sincere people who love Jesus, but that sincerity does not always lend itself to being a good teacher or expositor.) The curriculum or subject matter should be sound, well-written and relevant. Our small groups need to be organized so that everyone has the opportunity to take part, to ask questions, to participate and grow. We also may have to make sure that peripheral issues, church politics, personal preferences and other rocks don’t interfere with learning and growing?
Preparation – I put this one last, because it often falls last in our thinking. We don’t do any planning or preparation for growth and then we are surprised and disappointed when people don’t progress in their Christian walk. Farmers and gardeners will tell you, if you just sling out some seed and hope for the best … you’re going to be disappointed. I’m afraid that’s how we sometimes approach our Commission. We’ll just throw the gospel out there and good things have to happen. It could work that way, but let’s think about how Jesus did it. Jesus taught His disciples, sent them out to practice what they learned, helped them download the experiences, taught them deeper stuff, then handed off responsibility to them. Paul used the same progression with Timothy, Titus and others. This was intentional and purposeful, not accidental. It is hard work but it is a critical step if we want to see growth. When people come into the body of Christ, we have a responsibility to make sure they progress to a place of service and not let them languish as spectators.
Are you growing? Is your church good soil? What can you do to improve the composition, constitution or preparation of the soil?
Next week: Water