Feed the soil.
Have you ever heard that? It’s a fundamental farming principle. If you feed the soil, then plants will have everything they need, along with water and sunshine, to become healthy and strong. But underneath that principle lies an important assumption: healthy organisms grow. Be it an emerging sunflower or a properly-rooted tree, when it’s healthy, it grows.
This assumption– that healthy organisms grow–is Lesson #6 of my 20 lessons learned in 20 years of ministry. If I will focus on health, growth will take care of itself.
How has this assumption helped me? In two ways.
First, the assumption that growth is natural for healthy organisms helps me be honest when growth isn’t happening. If something is not growing, then something is wrong. Why is that important? Because we want to make excuses for lack of growth, whether it’s in my own life or the life of the church. We often look for someone or something to blame, usually external. But if something is not growing properly, I need to assume there’s a health problem more than anything else. Attend to health, and growth will continue.
Second, the assumption that healthy organisms grow helps me stay focused on what really matters. It’s very easy to get distracted and start focusing on techniques or fads or a cure-all program and forget the basics. In gardening, this is like getting enamoured with all the latest gadgets claiming to make gardening easy while ignoring fundamental soil care, such as composting or crop rotation. As far as a healthy church goes, attending to basics means growing in our relationship with Jesus, growing in our relationships with each other, and living out Jesus’ mission together in his world.
Assuming that health produces growth has been so important for me as I lead and work in the local church. Jesus wants his church to grow, in all the ways growth is possible, deepening our love for each other, expanding our witness to reach more people with the good news, bearing fruit, as he called it. Bearing fruit is natural and expected. And how will we do that? By staying connected to the source of life. Jesus takes this principle down to square one when he said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NIV) The key to growth is staying healthy, connected to our only source of life. When connected, growth happens. When cut off, death is inevitable. Stay connected to Jesus!
Healthy organisms grow. We can trust that assumption. God designed organisms to flourish, whether it be the humble potato or the local church. And knowing that gives me hope and courage to tend and amend the soil so that growth can continue as God desires.
How have you seen this principle worked out in your own life?
Why is this connection between healthy and growth important for the church?
Want to catch up on the first five lessons? Here’s what I’ve posted so far: