Allow me to recap the previous post:
- When growing a church is a chief priority, then we are incentivized to work with favorable populations.
- Working with favorable populations may grow a church, but it often leads to monoculture.
- Monoculture in farming is efficient but it has serious unintended consequences.
Monoculture farming is efficient and therefore, attractive. The USA places efficiency as a great virtue – so much so there is an entire cottage industry of “lifehacks” designed to make your life more efficient. There is something elegant about getting things done in the most efficient way (bricklaying, minecrafting, holding a coffee mug).
Many of us love the idea of being efficient with our time and, again, there is nothing wrong with it. Many people around the world are fed because of corn or soybean farms. The point is not about church growth but about valuing a type of church growth over another. Church work is anything but efficient. This is because Church work is work of the heart and shaping people’s hearts is a long, long, long process that sometimes does not “work.”
One of the early ways people avoided monoculture gardens was with the “three sisters.” This is the practice of growing corn, beans and squash together. The beans grew on the corn while the squash provides shade and cover from weeds. It is true that you could get more of each vegetable if you just planted that vegetable, but then you are right back at monoculture farming.
What do the “three sisters” have to do with Church? I wonder if the widow, orphan, and sojourner are something we might consider as a sort of “three sisters.” If a Church spends time working with the widow, orphan, and sojourner then that church may not grow as many disciples as they might if the church focused on families. However, a church that focuses on these “three sisters” of people may find a sustainability that otherwise may not come from catering to middle class families. As Jesus said, the poor will always be with us – there are always new widows, orphans and sojourners. If we focus on the “least of these” we may very well find a more sustainable church growth.
I say all this knowing full and well that I have failed to focus on the widow, orphan and sojourner. We all are trying to find the way to “be the Church” in this new day. I admit that I too am struggling with how to do/be the Church in a time and place where institutions are not trusted, authority is met with suspicion, efficiency is the currency of our time and the difficult work of being in the Church today is evident every week. I offer the idea of a re-focus on the widow, orphan and sojourner as part of my own personal reflection and growth, understanding that while I may not be called to monoculture church others are called in other ways.