Fertilizing the Church
Recently, I was reading through my journal in an effort to remember all the amazing things God has spoken to me over the last year. (If you do not already journal on a daily basis th words God has spoken and the incredible things He has done, I encourage you to start today!) As I was flipping the pages of my journal, I found an entry that caught my attention and spoke profoundly to my heart. The date was April 22, 2018.
"Had a picture (mental image) today of weeds, fertilizer, and grass. For our grass to live & grow, it needs to be given fertilizer on a regular basis. Without it, the grass will become weak, dry, & eventually die when the season becomes hot & dry. However, when we put down the fertilizer, we also strengthen (unintentionally) the weeds, which begins to compete with our grass for resources. The parallel to this is what the culture of grace, love, forgiveness, and freedom does in the church. It is like a fertilizer that keeps the church body healthy and growing. Unfortunately, bad doctrine (weeds) also begin to rise up in this culture. Many times, when faced with a "weed problem" in our church, we end up taking away the fertilizer, but doing so, also takes away the very thing that gave life to the church. We cannot let the fear of weeds keep us from cultivating a culture of freedom, grace, & love. In fact, this is the very core message of Jesus' ministry. Yes, weeds will appear where this culture is present. Bad doctrine will appear. However, we can also choose to just remove the weeds, rather then remove the fertilizer. Yes, it is more work to remove the weeds, but the results the fertilizer brings to the grass is more than worth it."
As I read through this word, I began to think of all the times that Jesus spoke about gardens, weeds, and seeds in His many parables. One parable the gospel of Matthew, Chapter 13, talks about when Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to a man who had sowed good seeds in his garden. While he was sleeping, the man's enemy came and sowed weeds, which sprouted and formed it's ugly fruit. The servants came in and asked if they should go and pull the weeds, of which the owner responded to wait until the harvest time.
What the servant wanted to do is the very thing that most of us would have done had we found ourselves in this situation. In fact, many of you who are reading this blog has a garden in your yard that you regularly maintain by pulling weeds out that appear to be choking our plants. Yet here we see a very different approach by Jesus as He teaches us to leave the weeds till the harvest season comes! His reasoning is that pulling the weeds before the harvest, or holding back the fertilizing nutrients may stunt the growth of the good plants or may cause someone to accidentally pull the wheat plants as well. Either way, the harvest is effected as less fruit will be produced.
Bringing this thinking back to my journal entry, I cannot help but think of many "God Moments" that got extinguished because a "weed" began to form in the body, which then created a culture of fear in the leadership, which then opened the door for more rules and controls to prevent these weeds from taking root again. Imagine what would have happened in the garden of Eden, had God pulled from Adam and Eve the freedom to make choices. "Because you ate of that fruit, no longer can I trust you to make choices. Thus, from this moment forth, you will only do what I tell you". Imagine what the human race would look like today had that been God's response? Certainly the flood would not have been necessary (as there would be no sin), but without man's ability to choose (freedom), the Bible would nothing more than a historic narrative rather than the beautiful story of redemption and pursuit of love that it is today!
Another story that comes to mind is from the gospel of John, chapter 8. Here we have teachers of the law and Pharisees bringing before Jesus a woman caught in adultery. Out of their religious pride, they were trying to trick Jesus as it had become clear that He was more concerned with people's hearts than following a set of external rules. Jesus surprises the men by inviting them to begin stoning her, but only on the condition that the one who has not sinned to throw the first stone (verse 7). After all the men had left, He then surprises the woman by telling her to "go and sin no more." Notice that Jesus does not deny the presence of her sin. Rather, He chooses not to condemn her and to turn away from the sin that is holding her life back from reaching it's fullest potential.
I want to encourage you today, as your read this blog, to take a moment and let God remind you of how many mistakes you have made in the last week.... How many weeds have taken root in your life due to poor choices you have made? Has God removed grace, love, and freedom from your life to prevent these poor choices from being made? So why are we doing the same thing in our families, in our communities, and in our churches? Why do we exile "sinners" who made a mistake and the form new policies in hopes to prevent anyone from making the mistake again?
I am not saying that there should not be consequences for poor decisions, certainly God removing Adam and Eve from Eden was a consequence of eating the fruit. Consequences teach us discipline, and discipline helps us grow into His image. But taking grace, love, freedom out of the church through "sin preventing" policies is like holding back from fertilizing our gardens in fear of a weeds growing. It just does not make sense and over time leads to a dead and lifeless church.
In closing, I want to encourage the body of Christ, in particular those in leadership positions, to look deeper into the heart of God and what He is doing in your families and communities. As opposed to "pulling the weeds", how can you be a part of fertilizing and joining God in what He is doing? In what areas have you held back the life giving fertilizer out of fear of the weeds taking root? Have you put any policies in place that holds back the fertilizer that is needed to sustain what He is doing?