First up, my disclaimer: I’m not suggesting at any point in this post that farmers are better than business men, or anything like that. This is a very simple metaphor, which I will explain now.
For the purposes of this post, the business committee is a picture of a lot of talk. It’s a group of people who make a lot of decisions without actually executing much themselves. Farmers on the other hand represent the salt of the earth people, who do the best they can with what they’re given, but also rely heavily on outside influences that they have no control over. So what do these two groups have to do with each other or this post? Let me explain.
I’ve been reading a lot lately about the impact of social media on how brands communicate who they are to their consumers. Some do it well some don’t. We had a chat at work over lunch the other day about, how social media means that brands find it harder to pretend. If you’re pretending to be something you’re not, people can see through it very quickly and even let you and the entire world know what they think. It got me thinking about how the church is often seen as a kind of out-of-date, pretentious brand by the outside world. They see us as religious, hypocritical, homophobic, fake know-it-alls, who only believe in God because we’re too ignorant to see the “facts”. We could argue all day about why this is not what the church looks like. The fact remains, that to many, it’s the brand of Christianity they know and remember.
The question is, how did this brand develop? Did we create it? It’s certainly not the kind of church Jesus modeled and told his disciples to build. So what happened?
My dad and I were talking about a specific issue in a local church when he said,
“The problem is when you have more engineers than farmers”.
My brother is an engineer, so I’m not discounting the importance of engineers. But if you only have engineers, managers and business committees, you have a lot of meetings. So if we’re all exclusively interested in talking, who will be left to actually do the things we’re talking about?
When I think about, why we’re on this planet as the church, certain scripture verses pop into my head:
“The Lord says, ‘I hate your religious festivals; I cannot stand them! 22 When you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; I will not accept the animals you have fattened to bring me as offerings. 23 Stop your noisy songs; I do not want to listen to your harps. 24 Instead, let justice flow like a stream, and righteousness like a river that never goes dry.'” AMos 5:21-24 NIV
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah – 6:8 NIV
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 NIV
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27 NIV
Is it just me or are there a lot of verbs in these verses? I don’t see a lot of talking. The church becomes the opposite of what Jesus intended when it forgets to do what it feels it needs to preach to everyone. It’s something we’re often guilty of as a group and as individuals. As a church group we often care only about the issues pertaining to our local church, maybe even our denominational cluster of churches. We make plans, we draw up blueprints on how to do church and how to bring people to our gatherings. That is the business committee. The “farmer church” cares about what needs to be done right now to achieve the goal of the kingdom and then goes out and does it.
On an individual level, we’re often very quick to tell everyone what we think and believe. We have no problem pointing out which behaviour we disagree with and what we feel is immoral. What we struggle with (and this counts for everyone, no matter what you believe) is becoming known for what we do. Yes, preaching and discussing ideas and issues is important, I’m not saying that it isn’t. I do think though that the church has lost a lot of credibility with outsiders, not that much because of it’s beliefs, but because the insiders aren’t sharing their beliefs practically. We often think that sharing our faith means telling people what we believe. That’s definitely part of it – telling our stories and how God has worked in our lives – but like Jesus said, how can you claim to love God if you don’t share that love with others? We love our families and friends, not just through words, but through giving, listening, holding… the list goes on. I think the more talking we do, the more complicated we make following Jesus and it’s just simply unnecessary and a waste of time.