Have you noticed the organic food craze that has been sweeping the United States for the past decade or two? As a kid growing up I never remembered seeing an “Organic” or “All Natural” label placed on the food my mom would put in the shopping cart. But people today are demanding that their food be grown without pesticides or artificial fertilizers and in an ethical and sustainable way. People are looking at the size of their chicken breasts and questioning if a chicken really should be the size of a turkey! You can blame the farmers all you want for this, but their livelihood depends on their crops. Furthermore, many of them have no other option due to industry pressure, other than to grow conventionally. Today the revolution in farming is to return to the ancient practices that have brought forth a safe harvest for millennia.
So what does this have to do with the church and church planting? People are tired of getting their spirituality super-sized and a drive-through window. Like the pressures of the agricultural industry there have been pressures on churches in all denominations to ascribe to business models of management, un-scriptural leadership techniques, manufactured sermons, financial pyramid schemes, marketing that is tacky and shallow, and a view of church growth that states “bigger is always better.” Like those people who question the way crops are grown and the size of chickens, there are some of us who are asking the question, “Has church always been like this?” Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not rallying against any specific church or denomination any more than I am rallying against any specific farmer. However, I am saying that ancient Christian practices are never more needed than they are today.
Perhaps the way forward for the church is to re-appropriate for today those ancient practices: daily prayer, weekly Eucharist, abiding in the church calendar, healing ministry, and radical hospitality. What if instead of one large farm in town, there were multiple smaller farms that worked together to grow crops that are sustainable for the community? What would it look like to plant churches that have a neighborhood feel, a deep spirituality, an outward focus to the broader community, and an unshakable love of God and neighbor?
I want to see what it would look like to grow such an organic church community in Medina. Where would we start? What does such a community look like? How do we grow a movement?
Yesterday I became an alumnus from Asbury Theological Seminary!
I began my Master of Divinity degree from a trauma hospital in Afghanistan while I was in the Air Force. After those early online classes a little over three years ago, I transitioned from active duty life and moved to rural Wilmore, Kentucky to finish my degree in residence. Since moving to Wilmore I have had so many life-changing experiences that I will have to write multiple blog posts to tell you about them all. The most important experiences were meeting and marrying my wife, Bridgette and the birth of my daughter, Anna Rose.
John Stott shares a brief biography of the life and ministry of the Anglican minister and preacher, Charles Simeon.
The standard by which Charles Simeon measured his sermons, “Does it uniformly tend to humble the sinner? Does it exalt the savior? Does it promote Holiness?”
Χριστος ανεστι εκ νεκρων, θανατω θανατον πατησας, και τοις εν τοις μνηηασι ζωην χαρισαμενος.
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and giving life to those in the tombs.
If there are devout and God-loving people here,
let them enjoy this beautiful, radiant festival.
If there are prudent servants,
enter joyously into the Lord’s joy.
Whoever may be spent from fasting,
enjoy now your reward.
Whoever has toiled from the first hour,
receive today your just settlement.
If any came after the third hour,
If any of you arrived after the sixth,
have no misgivings, you have lost nothing.
If some have been as late as the ninth,
come forward, do not be at a loss.
If any of you have arrived only at the eleventh hour,
do not be dismayed for being late.
The Master is gracious;
He accepts the last even as the first;
He gives rest to those of the eleventh as well as to
those who have labored from the first;
He is lenient with the last while looking after the first;
to the one He gives, to the other He gives freely;
He accepts the labors and welcomes the effort;
honors the deed, but commends the intent.
So, all of you, enter into the joy of our Lord:
first and second, share the bounty.
Rich and poor alike, celebrate together.
Sober or heedless, honor the day.
Those who fasted, and those who did not, rejoice today.
The table is full, let everyone fare sumptuously.
The calf is fatted, let no one go away hungry.
Everyone, savor the banquet of faith;
relish the riches of His goodness.
No one need lament poverty,
for the kingdom is seen as universal.
No one need grieve over sins;
forgiveness has dawned from the tomb.
No one need fear death;
the Savior’s death has freed us from it.
While He was its captive He stifled it.
He despoiled Hell as He descended into it;
it was angered when it tasted His flesh.
Foreseeing this, Isaiah proclaimed: “Hell,” he
said, “was angered when he met You below.”
It was angered because it was abolished
It was angered because it was mocked
It was angered because it was slain.
It was angered because it was shackled.
It received a body and encountered God.
It took earth and came face-to-face with heaven.
It took what it saw and fell by what it could not see.
Death, where is your sting?
Hell, where is your victory?
Christ is risen and you are overthrown.
Christ is risen and demons have fallen.
Christ is risen and angels rejoice.
Christ is risen and life rules.
Christ is risen and not one dead remains in the tomb.
For Christ, having risen from the dead,
has become the firstfruits of those that slept.
To Him be the glory and the dominion, forever. Amen.