Thursday, February 26, 2015

Plant Soy Beans!

Robert Manor, a Nazarene Pastor, told this illustrative story in a small book he wrote a few years back on Making the Small Church Grow (NPH/Kansas City). Brother John is the hero of the story. This southern cotton planter raised cotton until hard times brought him harsh difficult financial losses.

Threatened with bankruptcy, John eventually requested a loan from his banker. The Banker agreed to finance him, but only conditionally. John must follow the bank’s instruction specifically. 

“Plant peanuts and soybeans” the banker announced. Having no other option, John reluctantly agreed. He planted peanuts and soy beans as agreed. Larger profits resulted. John enjoyed four profitable years and finally returned to the banker, who agreed, “You are out of debt and on your own.” 

John scarcely believed what he was hearing and exclaimed, “You mean I‘m free of debt and on my own? Upon receiving the affirmation of his banker friend, Brother John was overheard wistfully sighing; “now I can go back to planting cotton.” 

We laugh at the story as a business model, but the picture we see is precisely what most local congregations do in real life. We survey our harvest fields, but we see mainly cotton. When the people we see are different, we feel uncomfortable; yet Jesus said,  “Look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest” (John 4:35, NKJV). Consequently, we accommodate what we see with our comfort zone and we continue planting cotton when we should plant peanuts and soy beans (italic added).

We are not the first people to live in a changing society, nor will we be he last. First-century life knew only cheap labor and slavery. Labor was hard. Slaves were plentiful and there were more where they came from. Nonetheless, Jesus modeled lifestyle evangelism and trained His disciples extensively. Divine confirmation came to His bewildered band of disciples when He reappeared among them within weeks after the cross.

It is true that people look and act differently from many of us, but all people everywhere need the gospel. We can take heart from the encouraging words of Jesus, rather than peeking out through our window shade at an uncomfortable “worst-ever” world scenario. As the Disciples’ grew in their understanding, they witnessed - beginning in Jerusalem.

The story of Jesus’ resurrection raced across Judea-Samaria like a lightning bolt! Wafting on the winds of God, their message drifted across the continents. As evangels today, we can do no less. We have a story that suggests we use every means available to influence others to faith in Christ’s atonement on the cross. Every thought, word, and deed that we use should inform people about Jesus and what living for him means.

Global needs today obviously require some rearranging of personal priorities and extending the boundaries of our individual comfort zones as needed. Therefore, let the church make the necessary adjustments.

1. Plan for personal growth
    by developing specific and measurable strategies for determining how well we are succeeding as
    Christ’s evangels.

2. Avoid activities that service only congregational machinery.
    The church needs dependable workers and program personnel. Model tithing and good stewardship     by intentionally developing at least one outreach worker for every nine maintenance workers; God     uses all ten. 
3. Encourage others to set goals and objectives.
    Mobilized members can free staff members to follow their calling of training and equipping                 members.
    Free your church staff to develop their gifts in facilitating, coordinating and training the                       congregation (Eph. 4:11-12).

4. Unreached people in your community mean potential growth.
    The harvest is “already white for harvest” (emphasis added). Jesus calls us to maximize the                 harvest  and avoid the ruts that come with being small, barely maintaining, and staying plateaued.

Being small is never sin, unless we disobey.
Do we need to look beyond the familiar?  

Does the Church of God need to stop planting cotton and begin raising peanuts and soybeans?

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