“Church”, the way we do it, can be messy.
I can remember the first time I had an in-depth conversation with Pastor John. Sal and I went to his office to meet with him as we were in the midst of changing churches and some huge transitions in our lives. As he shared about the intentionality behind the methods of GodWhy he talked about this parable….
Matthew 13:24-43 – The Parable of the Weeds
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
John explains it this way, “See, for so long I wanted my church to look a certain way, to experience God with a certain dynamic, and I found myself standing in front of the same people every Sunday, telling them more about what they already knew and just hoping to wrap-up in time to beat the Baptists to Shoney’s” (Many of you will have to google “Shoney’s”…enjoy.)
“As God led me to start GodWhy I had a deeper discovery from this parable. Imagine driving down country roads looking at rows and rows of crops neatly planted, so perfectly arranged. (There is a sound he makes when he tells this story…motioning with his hand, simulating rows of crops, tic, tic, tic, tic, tic…row to row to row.) This is farmer Brown’s place. He works very hard to keep everything looking perfect. Keep driving. Another pristine field. Tic. Tic. Tic. Tic. This is farmer Ed’s place. He only plants the best crops and makes sure nothing ever creeps in. Then you come to the next field. It is a mess. Rows are indistinguishable, many weeds are taller than the crops. You wonder, does anyone even own this land!? But you learn, that’s farmer Jesus’ place. He has this strange farming technique. His whole goal? Let the weeds and the wheat grow together so we don’t lose even one.’”
I spent the first half of my career trying to get my ministry in neat little rows, (I probably did the same thing in my personal life.) but I began to realize that that limited the actual ministry part of ministry. I can’t “order” things to health, but love never fails. Learning to love the wheat and the weeds is a challenge for us all. Trying to get people to line up with my agenda, in my time, with my methods doesn’t really work at home, at work, or in a church family. But letting God plant, tend and grow in my life seems to yield a great return.
I like rows. I like order. I like things to make sense and have boxes, and while I don’t think God is against these things, I do believe he recognizes life does not fit neatly into rows and boxes for many people. What good does it do if we all sit and stand at the right time or line up our lives to appear the “right way” if our own lives are not being deeply transformed and then impacting the lives of others? For many of us it takes time to sort through the weeds and wheat of our lives. There is an enemy that sows seeds of fear, insecurity and pride. We aren’t sure what needs to go and what needs to stay. So when you lead a church with this understanding, knowing that the weeds and wheat may need to grow together as God does the work of sifting…it will be messy…
But how messy can we let that get? Read Romans 14, and we’ll post more later…