Saturday, July 7, 2012

A brief parable about lawns

In the book Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow one of the authors describe what it's like to return from vacation and find large brown spots in his lawn.  He compares that lawn to a congregation.  Let me now quote a section from the book because I want to make sure I properly capture what he writes.

"If there are dry and parched sections in your church, hopefully your heart is filled with much greater dissatisfaction for the level of deficient disciples than for a subpar lawn.  Perhaps you are thinking of some of the people who sit in your church, those whose lives seem parched.  Maybe you are frustrated with the lack of passion in worship, apathy toward the Scripture, an inward focus, the grip of materialism, childish men, or failing marriages....

"Some don't care.  Some leaders are consumed with creating a bigger field, even if it's a parched field.  Other leaders mask the lack of life with the multitude of activities on the church schedule.  Size and activity often cover immaturity.  Some leaders have given up the dream of leading a movement of people transformed by Christ.  They have become apathetic chaplains of a mediocre institution.

"If you don't care, repent.  If you do care, be careful."

That's powerful stuff, and I think it captures where many churches and church leaders are today.  But why did he say that if we care we should be careful?  He goes on to warn against the temptation of finding ways to cover the parched lawn.  Specifically, he warns of the danger of painting over the lawn to make it appear better than it really is. 

The first time I saw someone paint grass was at a NCAA baseball sectional.  Our son's team played that year for the chance to go on to the College World Series.  As we were sitting down I noticed a groundskeeper with a spray can painting the grass behind home plate.  He touched up the brown spots, and although the paint didn't exactly match the color of the grass, it did make it look better.  If the games were televised I doubt the viewers would have noticed the different shades of green behind home plate.

We must not attempt to cover over the lack of discipleship in our churches and declare our churches healthy.  We can make all the external changes we want to but until we address the heart issues that prevent our people from developing spiritually our churches will remain unhealthy.  When we see a lack of spiritual fruit being produced in the lives of our people we should know there is a problem that needs to be addressed. That should challenge us to take a hard look at the discipleship efforts in our churches and make the necessary changes that will help transform people's lives.

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