church buildings, church growth, church status quo, grain of wheat, Jack and the Beanstalk, Jesus, John 12, people-pleasing, wheat falling
Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
It’s easy to cling to the status quo, the wheat stalk in our midst.
It’s easy to play it safe. It’s much simpler to allow the voices that stagnate to overrule. It’s much less complicated to keep lives and institutions in their current shapes.
But here’s the thing: if we keep gripping to the stalk on which we grow and not allow ourselves to die to the old and be reborn, we are going to die anyway.
If we cling to our current ways of living, the unhealthy will overrule our well-being. If we cling to a destructive friendship or relationship, our soul begins to shrink. If we cling to a rigid way of thinking about a subject, we will cut ourselves off of a still-speaking God in our midst.
This also applies to the way we are the church.
If we try to keep people happy, preventing anything from changing and anyone from grieving, we think to ourselves “well, at least we aren’t dying. All must be well!” We’ll remind ourselves that we aren’t shrinking. We’re retaining members! Instead, we’ll foolishly affirm to ourselves and others that we’re stable. But we’re far from stable. We are clinging to a dying stalk of wheat.
We allow ourselves to forget about all of the others that may come our way once we shed our status quo. We will die in the lie of stability because stability doesn’t really exist. And people-pleasing is only an illusion.
But everyone’s “happy.” Or so it seems.
Here’s where I fall short: being a Christian isn’t about making others happy. Jesus refused to make others happy. Instead, he threw over tables in the Temple, healed on the Sabbath, touched the unclean and associated with expendable people.
I’ll be honest- as I give this more thought, I no longer believe it’s really about making God happy but, instead, allowing God’s call to draw us into life. We are called to live the Christ-filled journey by releasing the old ways we in which we exist. It requires us to stop the people-pleasing, cease clinging to the old and let go.
The path of Christ means free-falling into the air… wondering where we will land and having faith that we will land in soil that will nourish us.
Those who love their lives exactly the way things are right now will eventually lose it sooner or later. We will get old and our bodies and/or minds will cease to work. As we die we’ll wonder why we didn’t take more chances in life and free-fall into the call of God.
Likewise, those who love their churches exactly how they currently are and work to keep the status quo will eventually lose their church. Our members will age. We won’t have the bodies and monies to continue to run our current church structures and buildings. As we cling to the old, the life and energy stirring around the church building will drift away.
Eventually, the church will die. Only the hollow, echoing building will stand. No more ministries. No more worship. No more laughter at 9:45a.m. on a Sunday morning.
Now, if we are willing to throw everything to the wind – our old perspectives, our old structures, our old procedures – just as this grain of wheat that Jesus spoke of, we have the potential to grow. In this great release of the old, we may feel like we are killing off the past. We may be tossing away everything we know. And, yes, this means deep grief.
Living this wild life of instability forces us to stop the rigidity and start on the winding road to who-knows-where. But the possibilities of growth are endless. The laughter and energy may dwindle for a bit, but then begin to build.
Remember Jack’s magic beans after he sold the cow? Without releasing the old (and maybe sacred) cow, a beanstalk wouldn’t have blossomed.
Just like many churches will sell their buildings, merge with other churches, advocate for something new… Basically everything they are into the wind… Selling the sacred cows for magic beans.
But most of the time, when the seed releases and falls, the ground catches it, nurses it, and allows the seed to take root…
…And the buds of resurrection break through the ground.