“I am but dust called to die to self and live in Christ. My walk with my Lord is limited by my belief in myself and my desire to be something, anything, other than dust.” — Wendy Cohen
When did we start to view the Kingdom of God in manufacturing terms rather than organic terms?
In manufacturing, we build our widgets, perfect them, create a market, sell our products, build our capital, float public shares, organize take-overs and mergers, and exist for wealth creation. We measure our effectiveness according to the capital we acquire: property, facilities, equipment, inventory, cash reserves, etc.
In manufacturing, we report regularly to the Board or the stock-holders, who expect tangible results, improved products, expanded product lines, and a healthy “bottom line.”
But the Kingdom of God is distinctively organic. It corresponds more to a biological plant than a factory plant. It incorporates people not machinery. It embraces cooperation not competition. And the bottom line is not cash but Christ.
Let’s not underestimate the implications of such a shift in metaphor. When we discard the industry model and embrace the garden model we discover some remarkable freedoms.
First, nobody assesses gardens by the criteria “bigger is better.” While we may marvel at acres of gorgeous landscaping, we can delight just as much in a small plot. Second, we may diligently tend a garden but we can’t force growth. That’s the Gardener’s job (1 Cor 3:6). Finally, organic entities have natural life-cycles where decline and death is normal not shameful. The Gardener holds a shed full of options when it’s time for a re-plant.
Jesus chose metaphors and parables for the Kingdom from the agricultural context of His day — seed sown by a sower, grain and tares, mustard seeds, etc. Was He simply accommodating the agrarian culture of His day? Or might He still use such images today, to move us away from “God the Industrialist” to “God the Gardner”? I suspect the latter.
The manufacturing model for the church reduces people to either salesmen or customers, and assumes that accumulation signifies success. It demands quarterly reports and clear job descriptions (spiritual gifts). But the organic Kingdom of God confronts such spiritual capitalism. And by doing so, it frees us.
Consider this important change of metaphor … and let’s bloom where we’re planted.
In HOPE —
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David Timms serves in the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. “In HOPE”, however, is not an official publication of the University and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the Administrators or Board. “In HOPE” has been a regular e-publication since January, 2001.