Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Organic in Organic Church

One of the best church planting seminars I have been too lately wasn't about church; it was about organic gardening and especially community gardening. Rich with lessons and metaphors for anyone interested in being missional in this world. And, besides that, community gardening is a great way to be in mission all by itself.

A few notes I took, translated into church or mission planting (I am increasingly finding myself drawn away from the term church and toward mission; it is just more dynamic):

1. The organic church foundation is a theology of compost, breaking down into simple and abundant life. There is more things alive in a handful of good compost than there are people on the planet, or stars in the sky, so I've heard and believe. Another reason why the next big thing is smallness. A good small group of people on a mission is equivalent to the enriching power of good composted soil

2. Use a cover crop to protect the soil. It is easy I have found with so much outward-focus and permission-giving culture in organic church to neglect the attention to protecting the DNA and keeping personal relationships uppermost. Dysfunction is clearer to see and check the more intimacy there is. I have to pay as much attention to the people as to the mission opportunties, and not go into over-reaction mode away from the institutional church focus only on itself. This is that difference between community and communitas, but community is needed to.

3. Takes heat to make good compost, but you need to put your compost pile in the shade. A kind of moderation and balance in all things. Keep things heated but not burned out.

4. Use the right kind of hoe in weeding, and till and rake rather than spray (of course). Pay attention to your ergonomics. Use don't abuse your body. As Easum says, put on your own oxygen mask first so you can help others put on theirs. Oh, about weeding, particularly do it when the plants coming up are small--attention needs to be most intensive and intimate at the early stages of church planting (learned the hard way).

5. Use drip irrigation. Point here---everything is local; you can't go wrong narrowing down your niche or area to serve, at least start there, because it is all about using resources to the best benefit.

6. Pest Control. Oh boy, the connections run thick here. Make sure you use organic sprays that are specific to the prey. In other words, don't treat all alike when you notice the red flags of dysfunction or disruption. I think this is a real danger in the mid size church where you dont have a lot of small groups and there are natural tendencies to use the same policy or approach to all who are distracting from the mission.

7. Prevent disease. Make sure you have good airflow. Let people breathe. Make sure you are watering roots and not just the air around the plant. In fact be careful that you don't, by your watering method, make the environment a damp one for diseases to use to multiply.

8. Diversity is necessary. Work flowers into your community garden; plant different things; try to get as many bees to come around as possible. Don't be afraid to open up to all kinds of people. I have people in my plant that I never thought would like it or there wouldn't be good matches with others, but shows how much I know when I let my assumptions take over.

9. Rotate crops. Give all the soil a chance. Reminds me to do more with giving away leadership and rotating with people being able to lead from their various passions and teach one another.

10. Keep a journal. Well, there is this blog...It does help to look back and see what I thought was important, what I wanted to do and got sidetracked or distracted, what should have been dropped, etc.

11. Get as close to the dirt as possible. Smell it. Taste it? Look at it. Monitor compost often, though whether you are active or have a static pile doesn't matter as long as you are intentional about it. The organic missional church is a way to stay close as possible to the soil of the soul of life. Programs dont come before people.

I am going to start considering how every time there is a gathering of folks on mission here it will be like working to make a better compost pile, or taking the compost and putting it onto a new part of the garden.

What God does of course is to use us as compost. It's all about transformation, change, taking the decay and turning it into the kind of gold that saves the earth, literally. Jesus in his parables understood the theological power of manure and dirt and water and the "waste" from our daily living inside the Empire.