A few years back I went to see the (then) pastor of our church at his house. He didn’t answer the front door, so I went ‘round the back to find him tending an elaborate hydroponics setup, in which he was growing tomatoes. I asked him why he was growing his tomatoes this way instead of the traditional, plant-them-in-the-ground-and-leave-them-to-it method.
He replied it was because the soil was no good. He lived on the slopes of Mt Albert, one of Auckland’s many volcanoes, where the soil is full of volcanic rocks, and therefore doesn’t have enough nutrients to grow tomatoes effectively.
A few years later I was involved in building a fence on the very same spot, and found out how right he was when I ended up on the end of a motorized post-hole borer with an enthusiastic Brazilian friend!
It struck me that our churches can often be like that Mt Albert soil. We lack the ingredients that should naturally occur for spiritual growth, and instead of cultivating them we fall back on artificial means and methods to give the impression that we are developing spiritually.
Another analogy might be paint by numbers. Creating an artwork by filling in the numbered areas with specific colours as per the instructions may well result in an aesthetically pleasing product, but it isn’t original, and would be considered fraudulent to be passed off as such.
Likewise, genuine spiritual growth can’t really achieved by merely following a step-by-step program. All of us need to take personal ownership of our spiritual development.
We can’t rely on pastors and preachers to tell us what to believe, and how to respond to the challenges of life. We must be able to own it ourselves.
Pastors and preachers have a valid role as coaches or instructors in the same way that an artist might study under another artist, or a tomato grower might have horticultural training, but it would be poor mentoring that didn’t result in the student standing on their own feet as a practitioner in their own right.
“Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand”. Ephesians 6:13In what ways do we fall back on artificial means and methods to supposedly develop spiritually? Leave a comment below.
Image: luvjnx creative commons flickr
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