What does it look like when a church leader gets tired of ‘playing church’ and decides to take the risk of doing whatever it takes to lead the church into a journey of radical faith? About a year and a half ago, I co-facilitated a seminar for church leaders in Southern California, along with a fellow pastor from Brazil. Tod Bolsinger, one of the pastors who attended, wrote this parable after our weekend together…
There once was a valley that had become barren. At one time the valley had been rich and fruitful and great vineyards that produced ample amounts of wine had flourished in the area. But over a generation the wine production had slowed as the ground had become barren. The vineyards went into decline. Some were abandoned, others went into decay, others cut way back on their expectations and tried to survive, some became museums of the great vineyard history. But a few kept working at in and they produced grapes. Yes, they were able to get handfuls, even sometimes, bucketfuls of grapes out of the barren soil. And the other vineyards marveled at this success, as meager as it was.
And then one day, two men came from other valleys and both of them brought with them wagons filled with cases and cases of wine. They shared generously and assured the vineyards owners that they could be fruitful again. Most of the vineyard workers assumed that these two men must come from better valleys. That the condition is better for growing where they are and that if they weren’t located in this barren valley, they too would be more fruitful. But the two men assured them that in most ways, their valleys were very similar to this one. They too understood how hard it was to get grapes out of such soil.
One of the grape-bearing vineyard workers asked the men to evaluate their operation. “What are we doing wrong?” he asked. “Why are we only getting a few grapes when you have enough to make wine?” They looked closely at their operation and concluded that in almost all ways, it was the same. The vineyard that produced a few grapes used the same philosophy, methods and approach as the two vineyards that produced so much wine. “But what was the difference?” he asked again.
One of the visitors answered: We dig much deeper than you do. The spring is down deeper. If you will go deeper you will be more fruitful.
It’s so easy to ‘play church’. To be content with the status quo. To simply do what’s always been done because you’ve never seen it done any different. Or on the other hand, to want to build a church that is the size of your ego. To pursue success, popularity and recognition. But God’s word to church leaders today continues to be….
‘I did not bring you here to build a great church. I brought you here to build people – these people. You build the people. I’ll build the church’ Matthew Barnett ‘The Cause Within You’
Lord, please help me be faithful to your call to feed Your people!