But come the end of June the stems turn gray and furry and the flower heads brown as they “go to seed.” It’s a long couple morning’s work to pull them up and toss them out to the field southeast of the flower bed. We’ve noticed over the years that things tend to spread to the northwest, and sure enough, if we toss things to the southeast we will get an even fuller bed the next year. What would happen if we just left them? Ugly, is what would happen, and that is not what flowers are for. Something has to be done if we want them to continue to flourish.
I’ve noticed the same about churches. The longer you sit on your pews with no winds stirring, no rainstorms, no blight to kill off the weak plants, no insects to fight, no cultivating to uproot the weeds, the more likely you are to go to seed. Every church needs a good stirring up once in a while if it wants to survive. When a church starts to “go to seed,” it can get just plain ugly.
I’ve seen a church become the property of one family, where visitors aren’t welcome and no one even thinks about reaching out to the community. It’s just there for convenience as they “fulfill their Sunday duty.” (Amos 5:21-24)
I’ve seen a church become so set in its ways that, while still claiming expediency, things are done in as inexpedient a way imaginable because it would upset anyone to change a tradition. In fact, they come close to considering it a sin to even think of it. (Matt 15:7-9)
I’ve seen a church become, not the pillar and ground of the truth, but a source of hatefulness and division. They call it standing for the truth when it’s really just barring the doors to anyone who might need a little more help than the type of new convert they would prefer. (I Cor 6:9-11)
I’ve seen churches so interested in keeping peace, they sacrifice purity, or let an obstinate brother have his way, even if it hurts the mission of the church in that community, or a weaker brother. (James 3:17)
I’ve seen so-called sound churches spout nothing but memorized catch-phrases and slogans with the requisite “proof-texts,” none of which they can explain or use in its true context. They talk about “no creed but the Bible” while explaining to every visitor an unwritten creed of do’s and don’ts if you want to be accepted by “us.” (3 John 9,10)
And I’ve seen many, many churches become so afraid of doing something wrong they never manage to do anything good. (Matt 23:23,24)
The first of July I start pulling up plants and tossing them to the southeast. Then Keith will come along a day or two later and run the mower over those old plants to help disseminate the seeds for next year. For a while my bed looks pathetic, but soon it will be a sea of bright yellow waving in the spring breeze once again, in fact, it will be fuller and brighter than ever. That will only happen after I turn it upside down and inside out. Maybe a few more churches need to do the same thing.
And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment learned by rote, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden,” Isa 29:13-14.