Back in September I attended a Green House with Neil Cole in Vienna. Although it was my first Green House, the content was not anything really new to me. Having read a lot of Neil’s stuff, and having had opportunities to pick his brain in the past, it was more of a refresher course and reaffirmation of things I’ve been processing since 2005, when I started on my church planting journey. I often site “The Shaping of Things to Come” by Hirsch and Frost as the book that turned my church concept upside down. And while that’s true, the book that plowed the soil was the “Organic Church” manuscript that I received in Cologne, Germany, in the Summer of 2004. Anyway, I digress. So, from the Green House in Vienna, I took copious notes on what these concepts look like in new forms of church. And, during my review of these notes this morning, I thought it could be fun to throw some of these ideas out there for discussion. I’ll say upfront, these are my thoughts on Neil’s talk. To say this is Neil’s point or his talk would not be completely accurate, although it could be. And to say that they are my original ideas is not completely accurate, but could be. Clear? LOL! Let’s jump in.
*The Kingdom starts with the Good Seed!
In this parable, the seed is the word of God. When the message is planted, it will reproduce. John 5:39 says that eternal life is not in the Scriptures, per se, but in Him! Blindly obeying commands on a page is not what He’s all about. He’s all about the voice behind the words on the page; the breath of God. It’s a living voice that is around me today and wants to talk to me today. Make no mistake. This does not discount or at all minimize the Scriptures. But sometimes we replace God with just his word. After all, aren’t there people who follow the Scriptures and do not know Christ? The scriptures say the spirit and letter of the law are important, not just the letter.
*The Kingdom starts with Good Soil!
1) Hard Soil – repels the seed and the birds steal it
2) Shallow Soil – receives the seed, grows quickly, the wilts from heat
3) Weed-infested Soil – receives seed with joy, springs up, then fruit is choked out by the weeds (the worries of life, the deceitfulness of riches, the desire for other things)
4) Good Soil – receives seed, grows quickly, and reproduces
Some truths from this:
1) it affirms the experience of my life – some people show up, then disappear. The truth is 2/3’s of those who receive the word will not reproduce. Yes, I know there are 4 soils. But notice the third soil also produces fruit, but gets choked out. I’ve wrestled with what that means exactly, but can only say there is some fruit there. Regardless, many who have the seed sown too them are not good soil. So, we change the way we do church in an attempt to bring them back, lowering the bar, and filling the church with bad soils. (Aside: and pastors wonder why their churches don’t “get it,” rise up, and storm the gates of Hell.) Now, we’ve changed church so much that bad soil feels like good church to them: that they should come and expect to receive, receive, receive… The entrance exam for the church is to take up your cross and follow Him. But we’ve reduced church to cater to bad soil. But we can be set free from this need! It’s not my job to change the soil! I can’t change the soil! I can’t give a sermon every week that will “get them through” for another week! After all, if the death, burial, & resurrection doesn’t motivate them, can I really think my sermon will?
2) Those that DO bear fruit bear a WHOLE LOT of fruit! A single shaft of wheat, when left unhindered, will produce crops big enough to feed the entire world in 8 years. To reproduce is a natural desire. And, thus, a natural process. I can’t pull the growth out of a seed. I can’t grab the stalk of corn and pull it taller. Our job is to plant God’s voice in peoples’ lives and their job to obey. Those that do will bear much fruit (30x, 60x, 100x).. If this was a stock, we’d jump on it! With a minimum return of 3,000%? Invest in the proven stock. Invest in the good soil. It only takes one seed to produce an apple tree. One seed can produce one tree and that tree will produce enough seeds for an entire orchard of trees that will produce several orchards of trees. Could this mean that Jesus isn’t saying that some will reach 3 people, some 6, and some 10? Or, is he saying some seed will reproduce to the 3rd generation, 6th generation, or 10th?
3) The proof of the type of soil comes from the production side, and not the planting side. The seed is sown equally in all the soils. There’s been a tragic miscalculation of the soils based on human standards and evaluations. This was certainly true in my story. My High School principal told me to learn a trade because college wasn’t in my future; and prison probably was. He couldn’t see that my future had an “X-factor” in it, only that my life was full of fertilizer…which is great soil for seed. You just can’t really know, can you? Sow abundantly and faithfully. Then, watch for fruit.
*The Kingdom Grows micro to Macro – easily seen in human reproduction. Even now, my body is reproducing cells. 6 months from now I’ll be different. It starts small. Our attempt to reproduce the complex from the beginning is not natural. We split churches in an attempt to plant them; like cutting off an arm and planting it in hopes that another person will grow. All reproduction starts at the simplest level: individual makes disciples, some of whom become leaders who plant churches that lead to a movement. If you multiply the simple enough times, it will go global. John 4:30-32