June 30, 2010


When I teach prospective pastors about leadership in the church, I have urged them to find terms other than "volunteer" to use for those in their congregations who do the work of the church. That word has always implied to me something optional, voluntary, rather than an irrevocable calling (Romans 11:29). But I may be rethinking all that. You see, in my garden, I have had these amazing volunteers this year. I have three tomato plants that have just appeared -- the seeds sowed by last year's plants, coming to life in the new season, and growing as well as the plants that I bought last month. My neighbor has an amazing vine, huge and green, that might be a pumpkin but could be a squash -- we will have to wait to see. It was born from her compost, from the fruit of last year that has now put forth its own fruit. And a planter in my yard that sat outside all winter has produced a pink petunia from two years past.

These are all volunteers. And these experiences make me wonder if we are doing enough self-seeding in our churches. Are we raising up the right leaders, helping them bear fruit in their own generation, and then allowing the seed of that fruit to ripen and mature into a new crop that can provide nourishment in a subsequent season? I'm not sure. I think we all too often wear out our lay leadership so they have nothing left to pass along that will create volunteers for the future.

I will probably eat tomatoes this summer from plants that I set out in another summer. I am hoping that might be the case in some of my churches: that the work I have done in a past season will bear fruit for the future, that there will be volunteers that sprout up to nourish a new generation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rest assured-I am one of those "volunteers" who was tended by you. As a gardener/mentor you have modeled for me an attitude and "presents" that helped stir dormant ideals in me. And I "relish" the chance to express my thanks. May your bountiful harvest continue to surprise and renew you this and every summer and season.