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Organic Ministry means that (some) things should…DIE. Naturally.

June 24, 2010

The metaphor of “organic” ministry is often harnessed–in the New Testament and today–to help us think big about exponential, spontaneous growth.  This is entirely true and appropriate.

But an organic mindset also means that some things should die.

Jesus himself makes this clear.  He talks about the pruning work of the Gardener.

John 15:2
“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

This is death as a refining agent.

John 12:24
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

This is death as agent of exponential multiplication.
These are but a few of many applications of this principle.  To grow, to increase, to improve, and to move on, something has to give. Something has to die.

I’m not talking about literal human death here, but the “death” or end of something about us, or something that we do.  An idea, a dream, a project we’ve invested in, a relationship we’ve poured ourselves into.

The problem is, we fear death.  We act as if it’s the end, when biblically and organically speaking, it’s only the beginning.  We feel we can’t live without that person, or program, or title–when our problem is we can’t live with it.

Christians, of all people, should not fear death.  Those whose hope is in the resurrection can face the death of a dream, program, or relationship with confidence. We know God can build something better out of the ashes of our dream than we ever could with a lifetime of resources and know-how.

Faithfulness means setting up our lives and ministries to regularly, naturally, organically bring forth new things. This is a sign of life. But death is also a sign of vitality, of movement, of starting afresh.
What we DON’T do is stay the same. Embrace the status quo. Stand pat.

In my case, death as a refining agent has meant letting go of some of the trappings of ambition.  Titles, authority, preferred career trajectories, even a stable salary–I’ve had to die to these things.  And you know what? On the other side, I’m better off for it! I’m happier and more content. Even more, I’d say I’m a better person and a better minister. My ministry is more effective.

In my case, death as exponential multiplier has meant saying no to bad things masquerading as good, such as too many pointless or time-consuming meetings. It’s even meant saying no to low-yield ministry opportunities (such as the cat-herding of campus ministry in the summer). It’s meant gently saying no to certain people’s requests for meetings or time.  And it’s meant saying no to good things in order to focus on what is best.

So what will you put to death today?


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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 24, 2010 12:17 pm

    I’m not sure what YOU mean by “organic” in this piece. What is it other than an openness to death?

    • June 24, 2010 12:43 pm

      I don’t mean “carbon based.” :)

      Numerous books have been written to explain this, but when it comes to ministry, “organic” metaphorically means viewing individual and corporate spiritual life, practices, & systems through a natural framework, as opposed to industrial or mechanistic.

      So if a church is called to make disciples, the process shouldn’t resemble an assembly line, churning out widgets. It should resemble a tree, or a vine. It should have the potential to go exponential in the thousands of seeds it generates.

      The more mechanistic approach has been tried and found wanting. Thus the recovery of organic biblical metaphors.

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