Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Organic Community...

Finally! It seems as though we've passed through a grueling winter (at least for us southern folks) into the new life of spring. As icy cold dormancy gives way to buds and blooms, gardening and farming enthusiasts prepare for the fruitfulness of spring and summer. As a board member of 180 Degree Farm ( I've observed Scott and Nicole Tyson’s passion for gardening organically as well as the fruitful results of their passion. What I've learned from them is that organic gardening is much more than growing fruits and veggies
without using man made chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Stated more fully, it’s about cultivating an ecosystem that provides a naturally sustainable environment for healthy, fruitful plant life.

As I've observed 180 Degree Farm on the journey of cultivating this kind of ecosystem, it’s plain to see that this is not the quickest method for growing food, nor the easiest; but it is, without a doubt, abundantly fruitful and sustainable. The Tyson’s have tirelessly worked to build the foundation of healthy soil, made up of the right combination of minerals, organic matter, and micro and macro organisms that can support healthy plant life. With persevering tenacity, they have naturally fought back the unending invasion of pests which seek to devour their harvest and the steady encroachment of weeds which steal valuable nutrients from the soil. And, with continual care they feed their plants naturally, to produce a fruitful harvest. In an age that rewards the quick and easy route to production, I’m continually encouraged with Scott and Nicole’s faithfulness to the hard work of sustainable reproductive life.

As I overlay the organic mindset on my context as a pastor of an evangelical church, I identify with the need and desire to cultivate a healthy, sustainable spiritual ecosystem. So often in the church, the goal is to have as many people as possible, gathered as much as possible, as quickly as possible. Like in the "productive" industrial food system, there often appears to be healthy growth and fruitfulness, but over time we begin to understand that the unnatural practices employed to realize this production aren't feasibly sustainable. If we aren't careful, people created in the image of God, destined for His glory, can be perceived as mere consumers of our religious products and engaged strictly on that level. For instance, there are many "consumers" out there who have particular tastes as it relates to church life and the tendency is to create spiritual mono-cultures which accommodate those particular preferences. The result is a homogenous group of people who have the same desires and function in similar fashion during the church's gatherings or programs. Although this environment is ideal for creating uniformity along with rapid production growth, I believe it stands in contrast to God's creative desire to establish the unity of the Spirit in the abundant diversity of the body. The Apostle Paul points to this variety in the body, cultivated by the perfect union of the Trinity, in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6.

There are many parallels to church life we can draw from the organic vs. industrial food system discussion, but the question remains; will the church enter fully into the hard work of cultivating a healthy reproductive ecosystem rather than the quick and seeming productive work of providing for consumers? Will we embrace a diverse understanding of the body of Christ, intentionally involving everyone in the process of cultivation, or stick with environments that celebrate the few staple leaders who provide for the masses? Will we continually plant in the natural soil of unconditional love for healthy relationships with one another and the world, or
spread the unnatural pesticides of surface relational connection, avoidance of conflict, and judgmental perspectives? Will we cultivate an ecosystem which deeply connects and reproduces the family of God for His mission in the earth, or stay content in organizational structures that establish a contrived secular and sacred dichotomy in life? My hope and prayer is that we can learn from the Tyson's in their pursuit of a natural reproductive ecosystem on their farm, and join them in the hard but rewarding work of organic life.

Brent Anderson
Pastor of Senoia Vineyard Community Church

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