Fruit of Your Labor

Fruit is a funny thing. And by funny, I mean insanely frustrating and beautifully rewarding.

I live in Northern California, more specifically in the Sacramento area, America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital. I am not sure who decides these things, but knowing us Californians, it was likely a title we gave ourselves. I see it on billboards, at sporting events, in grocery stores, and at farmer’s markets. It’s a point of great pride for those in this region, and whether it’s actually true or not isn’t really important. My point is, somewhere along the way the conversation shifted.

It used to be we’d ask, “Where is a great new restaurant to try for dinner?” Or when at a friend’s home, we’d say, “I love this salad; where did you get these tomatoes?” Now the conversation is more often centered on how the new restaurant sources their ingredients. And there is nothing trendier these days than having friends over for dinner and going out to the garden before making the salad to pick the vegetables right then and there.

Somewhere along the way, the conversation shifted. I’m not sure when or how, but I certainly know why. The food at the grocery store got expensive, and, as it turns out, it is not even as good for us as we thought in the first place. We realized we could do it better in our own backyards. The same is true of our life as the local church. Somewhere along the way, the conversation shifted.

We realized as church leaders that simply filling the building each weekend, making a budget, and having people in groups did not transform character into Christ’s likeness and did not make us effective as a sign, servant, and foretaste of the Kingdom of God. Somewhere along the way, we grew convinced that our ways of doing church had slipped off course from the ways in which Jesus developed disciples. Somewhere along the way, the conversation shifted back to making disciples first and, well, nothing else. For the past few years, Cam Roxburgh, VP of Missional Initiatives, has been stirring up this conversation, and when the conversation changed, so did the metrics and the scorecard. Once these changed, everything changed.

With the addition of Kent Carlson, VP of Leadership Formation, we can further assist churches and their leaders to rediscover God’s original design for His mission and the church He gave us to accomplish the mission. As I travel and meet with fellow pastors and church leaders, I rarely hear that attendance numbers, budget figures, and quantity of staff are the leading metrics you share to indicate the health and vitality of your church. Instead, I am hearing things like, “We are figuring out how to use our campus as a gift to the city,” and, “It’s been such a delight to partner with the nearby school to be light and salt.” I hear pastors exploring not where they think they can carve out market share, but instead discerning where God is already at work and joining Him. And the fruit of those conversations has inspired me.

The conversation indeed shifted, and while that may not appear significant, it most certainly is. Before we know it, we are picking fruit out of our gardens and discussing what mulch we used to grow the harvest. I find myself gleaning great joy and inspiration as I hear John Stolz talk about chicken farms and Geoff Hartt talk about Hispanics for Christ. I am challenged when I spend a day with Brad Brisco, who Rick Weber and Cam Roxburgh brought to Folsom last week to spur on the Nor Cal pastors in this conversation. The conversation shifted; I cannot wait to see how the harvest will continue to yield God’s glorious fruit!

Might I challenge you to look over your calendar for the week ahead and simply explore how many discussions you might already have on the schedule where the conversation could shift to God and His mission?

Looking for a jump-start to change the conversation in your church? There are multiple opportunities coming up soon in Canada and the United States designed to help you take your next steps. Contact Cam Roxburgh or Kent Carlson to have a discussion about the resources available to you and your church.