What Are We Doing?
My Farm Church co-planter, Allen, and I had a big conversation the other day that grew out of a pretty important question: What are we doing?
To bring you up to speed, we’ve started a church. It’s called Farm Church. The vision of Farm Church is to be a church that strives to be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ by gathering people on a farm and leveraging all of the resources of that farm to address food insecurity. And we’re getting there. We have an urban garden in Durham, NC, where we gather folks together to grow food. On Sunday mornings we meet with a small but growing congregation at another urban farm in Durham, where we also work the soil.
There are some things we say that have become central to our identity as a new church:
- We’re blurring the lines between worship, work, and play.
- We believe that reconnecting with God, neighbor, land, and food can all happen at the same time.
- When we tend to the soil, we tend to our souls.
- Church is better with chickens.
Things like that. And so planting Farm Church has been fun. Daunting? Yes. Uncertain at times? Certainly. Risky? Uh-huh. But it’s been so amazingly fun to reimagine church in this new way—to envision a community of faith in the midst of gardens, orchards, compost, farm animals… And to organize a church not around a particular building or address, but rather around a specific call to do what Jesus did a lot and feed people.
Still, we wondered, What are we doing?
A little more context. This question stemmed from a critical reflection of the last five months of Farm Church (which, by the way, have been the only five months of Farm Church). And by “What are we doing?” we meant, “Are we just creating one more facet of the institutional church? One more outpost of a giant organization that’s managing a slow decline? And (gulp) are we becoming a cool, hip church with a gardening club?”
Truth be told, there’s a part of me that doesn’t like entertaining these questions, because, quite frankly, our ministry has plenty of growing edges as it is. Starting a church, fundraising, getting a garden going, outreach, managing volunteers… We have enough to handle as it is without sabotaging our weekly routines with a deeply meaningful and reflective question about our core identity as a church!
But of course, truth be told, we must ask these questions. We must keep the macro-question “What are we doing?” in our sights so that we can consistently strive to aim all our efforts towards the vision to which we’ve been called.
So… what are we doing?
If we pull the camera back from the baby spinach plants, back from the garden, and back from the farm… If we zoom out from the Sunday morning gatherings, from the bluegrass-ish worship music, and from the congregation itself… If we widen our lens beyond our to-do lists and our striving to “make it” as Farm Church, and if we strive to see a big, clear picture of our lives and our work, then this is what we are doing:
We are striving to see and live into the Kingdom of God.
Which, by the way, feels about right and a bit overwhelming. So today I’m going to echo the words of someone who knew a thing or two about such things. Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador, wrote these words not long before his assassination.
It helps now and then, to step back and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about: We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capability.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Please continue to pray for us, friends. Pray that this is what we are doing.