Faithfulness and Fruitfulness: Cultivating Ministry 2. Planting the Seed

Mark 4: 26-29 and Eccl. 3:1-3                                                 June 24, 2018

We continue today with our five week focus on cultivated ministry.  I am suggesting that we are the cultivators, the ones responsible for the quality of fruit produced in, through and from this gathered community of believers.  Last week we looked at the need to till the ground of our traditional ways of measuring our success—the counting of people and dollars.  I talked about the need to look instead at our productivity—that is the impact on the community inside and outside of these walls.  We heard again the parable of the soils, being reminded that the good soil which is able to produce abundant, healthy fruit is free of obstacles and is receptive to water and oxygen and sunlight and all the nutrients found underneath the surface.

This morning we are ready to look at planting the seeds. In a series of seedy stories in Mark,  Jesus told the parable of the farmer who planted the seeds and then left the growing to God.   I think it is crucial to recognize that the seeds would not have grown if they had not been planted.  For produce to be generated, there is a role for the planter of the seed and a role for the one who brings the miracle of growth and then a role for the harvester of the produce. God’s work depends on our work and our work depends on God’s work.  We are mutually accountable.

This is one piece of the larger idea of measuring our productivity, or fruitfulness– mutual accountability to one another and to God. Continue reading

Faithfulness and Fruitfulness: Cultivating Ministry 1. Tilling the Soil

June 17, 2018

Last week Dan and I worshipped in a large non-denominational church outside of Chicago where Dan’s parents attend.  They have a pattern of running both a contemporary and a what they call a “classic” service at the same time—one with a live preacher and one with the preacher on video.  They have been in the middle of growing pains which include construction to make a bigger space for contemporary worship and expanded parking and adjustments to their classic worship services (large choir, organ music, and a majority of worshippers my age and older) to consolidate and strengthen participation.  They have prayed, asked for input and discussed ideas among the leadership for some time, and are trying to find the right ways to keep their classic worship services full while their contemporary services are growing.

Churches of all stripes pay a lot of attention to the number of bodies in the pews.  We Presbyterians keep close track of members, count worship attendance and Christian education attendance and report our averages to the General Assembly each year.  We get grouped in the small church category, because our worship attendance is under 100.  Continue reading