In Jesus Day, it was not uncommon to see a farmer planting his fields In fact, given the closeness of these few stories here there may have been a farmer in a nearby field and Jesus uses that image to makes his point about the Kingdom of God
Unlike modern farming, in the ancient world it was a "Johnny appleseed" kind of business you took a handful of seed from your pouch and you threw it out on the ground The idea was that some of it would grow
This is the illustration that Jesus uses, to help us understand what the kingdom of God is like and it is important to understand what the Kingdom of God is like!
If we don't know what the Kingdom is to be like we will never know if our church is a healthy microcosm of that Kingdom or a diseased microcosm of that Kingdom
Before I move to my main points I want everyone here to notice the end of v.27 and the beginning of v.28
What we have here is an important truth of the Kingdom and it is an important truth for the church healthy organism grow "automatically" in fact that is the word that is used in the Greek text (aujtovmato")
When the church is healthy it will growth without ploy or gimmick Our concern must be on creating a healthy church.
As Paul said to the Corinthian Church Paul plants, Apollos water, but God makes it grow But how do we recognize a healthy church?
Christian Schwartz, has answered that well by survey chuches on 5 continents 30 people per church -> 4.3 million surveys.
This information was taken from growing church declining churches churches that were persecuted church in affluent situations.
Through this mechanism, he was able to discern 8 quality characteristics which transcended culture, economics, denomination, political climates.
This understanding of Natural Growth has been adopted by the BCOQ as the standard for helping our churches get on track with our mission
I have given the your Deacons the basic outline of this program -- I am very excited about it as a tool to aid Kincardine Baptist Church become as healthy as it can be.
From our passage today we some automatisms or things that are connected to this "all-by-itself" principle of Church Health
Last week there was a baby shower at the church Lise and talked about the particular choices we had with respect to baby gifts.
The conversation we had was about what size of baby clothes to buy do we buy something that will fit now or do we get something bigger so it fits later.
The assumption of growth is not even question no one says: Well maybe the baby will only grow spiritually or "Maybe the baby will stay this size for many years"
We just know from that healthy babies grow when we come across a situation where a baby is not growing we know that something is wrong and we do not hesitate to get a doctor involved
No one says: "Oh don't worry, some babies grow and others don't." It is more than just our expectation that healthy babies will grow it is out hope and our prayer as well.
I only use the example of the Natural growth of a baby because of our context as a church family. As Jesus taught the disciples at this time in his ministry, he used the image of the seed; nevertheless, the point remains the same -- we expect growth to take place in living things
So, when growth is not happening we should be concerned
that something is amiss. From time to time a farmer will have someone
take soil samples to make the land produce more. The farmer doesn't go
home and cry if his soil needs something
"Oh dear, my soil needs lime -- what a failure I am"
But sometimes in our churches that is exactly what we do we try to justify our soil and say -- "your fancy new-fangled equipment may be good down in Toron'a -- but it won't work here in good ole "Bruce County soil." That is not only a caricature of a modern farmer, it is misinformed -- farmers now take samples and do computer analysis and some even have their machines equipped with GPS more accurately to analyze yield. It is the church by-and-large that is acting like the bumpkin, refusing to believe that God wants his kingdom to expand. The church has even manage to polarize numeric and spiritual growth as if they were mutually exclusive. But they belong together,
because we want to be authentic followers of Jesus
because we know that God wants to rescue more people in our community and he has commissioned us to do our part in His rescue operation
Healthy churches grow Kincardine Baptist Church is growing there is an indicator of health for that we should be thankful
In some respects we are like that green sprout popping its head out of the ground. We are an emerging church trying to do some things in a new way and still continue the best of the old ways.
It is a difficult and dangerous journey for a pastor for the the vast majority (over 80%) who try to bring a church through significant change will either be fired or give up and leave. Needless to say, these are not encouraging statistics, yet to prove that God does have a sense of humour often the next pastor, who has very similar ideas will be met with much less resistance and transition often occurs.
We are all part of a process when doing God's work our hope and encouragement comes from the truth that it is God who is at the controls he is the one who causes things to grow.
And so, the Health conscious church needs to know that
Healthy Churches are growing churches
Healthy churches bear fruit -- they produce
Healthy churches produce people who know the Word
Healthy churches produce people who are willing to apply that Word in real life and in relevant ways - they think and act in terms of mission
Healthy Churches tap in to the gifts and abilities of the people; training and releasing them for ministry instead of having ministry controlled and managed by a few.
Healthy churches produce people who are connected with other believers in strong Christian relationships.
Healthy churches have times of inspiring worship where people's hearts and minds are engaged as Christ is honoured and lifted up
This is my dream and vision for Kincardine Baptist Church that we would be healthy and effective. Many of us know what it will take to be healthy And with that knowledge firmly between our ears we continue on a different course
Christian Schwartz says:
"The fruit of the Apple Tree is not an apple... it is an orchard"
And that leads me to my last point
Almost 130 years ago, someone had a dream. Under the guidance of a passionate leader a group of Baptists from Tiverton, there was a church planted in Kincardine. A church to be a spiritual lighthouse in this community. The founding pastor had a service in Gaelic and another in English -- he wanted to reach as many has he could in ways that were relavant to the day
Four years ago, a Baptist minister in Ottawa had a dream for a new development in the suburban development of Bar Haven. He assembled a core group and he commissioned leaders and over a period of time Longfields Baptist Church was born In Halifax, there is a MB pastor who has worked hard planting a church in his area. When the membership reached 150, the church commissioned a small core group and a new church was born in a neighbouring community. As with act of giving, when we are fixated on what we we will lose, we become paralyzed and ineffective. Don't we believe that God will punish a church for exercising faith in this way?
Planting churches is much like having children. It is a rare person who felt fully ready for having children. It is even more rare to find a person with that sentiment after the first year of their child's life. There are some things that must be done, not because we feel ready, but simply because it is time. We can share our fishes and loaves and watch Jesus multiply them or we can keep them to ourselves and watch the masses famish.
One mark of a truly healthy church is that it reproduces itself over a period of time. Studies are now showing that a healthy growing church can reproduce itself every four years with over half of its children surviving to go on and to reproduce themselves as well.
It kind of makes you think of Antioch in the Book of Acts. Like the New Testament vision of church planting.
Healthy churches are growing churches Healthy churches are flowering churches Healthy church are reproducing churches
If you break your leg you don't try to walk thinking that will make you healthy first you heal and become healthy then you get up and walk. Likewise with the church we should not try to grow, flower and reproduce thinking that this will make us healthy. We must become healthy and then these characteristics of health will, as the seed in Jesus' story, automatically show themselves.
First steps are the hardest and causes the most distress for all concerned. Those awkward steps are now behind and KBC is on the path and heading in the right direction but there still have more to learn so let each of us this morning have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying as we continue to hold open the door and invite God to do His work among us.