Well it’s Monday, which means this blog is my notes from the weekend teaching: Greenhouse “Conditions.” This is Pt. 5 of the Spiritual Greenhouse Theology series. So, read on if you are interested in these study notes.
Last week, Pt. 4, I talked about three types of “spiritual greenhouses” you need in your life for optimum spiritual development (Jn. 3:30)- mentors, a tribe, and the church. You have access to those, you get to choose- you cannot develop into spiritual maturity without participating in those three areas.
Big Idea: What are the “conditions” that are necessary and crucial to optimum spiritual development? These things create the right environment in your mentoring relationships, in your life group, in the church.
Just like in a greenhouse, you need all the right conditions: temperature, fertilization, light, water, etc.- all are meticulously controlled, so seedlings can develop for optimum reproduction, and to serve their intended purpose. Without the right conditions every greenhouse would be a failure, would go out of business.
The same is true for the church! In a spiritual greenhouse context, right conditions are everything! If our purpose is merely religious activity or social gathering, then forget the conditions; they’re not that important. But IF our purpose is spiritual development, Jesus increasing in and through our lives, so we can be productive at reaching our mission field and making disciples, then creating and cultivating the right conditions conducive to spiritual maturity is absolutely essential- aside from our ultimate purpose, it is our most important priority!
Jesus, the NT Church, understood this emphatically, and especially in the life of Paul, we see this exemplified. Both of Paul’s letters to Timothy, a young “pastor” in Ephesus, reveal not only the “spiritual greenhouse” dynamics of a spiritual mentoring relationship, a smaller group of spiritually positive influencers, and a church functioning right; they also relate the right “conditions” for optimum spiritual development.
Read 1 Tim. 1:2-19
If we could read both of Paul’s letters to Timothy, we could really break down this relationship. Paul is a mentor to Timothy. He has also brought Timothy into a tribe or group of others he’s mentoring- Titus, Silas, and Timothy is a leader in the church at Ephesus. All of these serve as “spiritual greenhouses” in Timothy’s life! And there are three crucial conditions present in all these areas that help us to understand what enables or facilitates optimum spiritual development…
Condition #1: Transparency- Authentic, Comfortable…
In 1 Timothy 1 we not only see the spiritual mentoring relationship that Paul and Timothy had, more importantly we see Paul modeling transparency in this relationship. Being transparent, real, genuine, authentic, is what made Paul so successful in his own spiritual development and as he mentored, or led others.
Transparency in this respect is what enables us to make real connections with people, people can be “comfortable”- not in terms of compromise, but in a sense of openness. Because transparency is being real without pretense. Transparency means my life is an open book. It means I’m genuine about my life, my motivations, my struggles; I’m not pretending, or superficial, or hiding something. What you see is what you get- I’m real, I’m genuine, I’m transparent.
Paul lived his life openly. He revealed his past. He talked about his challenges. He even admitted he was still the “biggest sinner” he knew! I don’t know about you, but being transparent about your life, in an appropriate way, helps everyone around you to relax. It takes away the pretenses. It creates an environment of authenticity that sets the stage of real understanding, relationship, and spiritual development.
Transparency removes any and all judgment or condemnation. It levels the playing field. It says, we are in this together. We’re not perfect, but we’re not making excuses either. We are going to be real, we are going to be genuine in our motivations, because it doesn’t do anyone any good, least of all ourselves, to pretend or be superficial people!
We must create an environment of transparency in our mentoring relationships, in our groups, in our church if we are to be taken seriously and be proven real! Transparency, as uncomfortable as it may be for us, is actually what makes others comfortable around us! Because it takes away the suspicion that so many people have about the church or Christianity today in our culture.
Transparency is like the right temperature in a greenhouse- it’s the climate necessary for promoting authenticity!
Question: “How real are you being in your life? How authentic are you, are we? Do you/we create and environment thats ‘comfortable’?”
Condition #2: Truthfulness- Accountable, Credible…
If transparency initiates an environment of authenticity, then truthfulness establishes credibility! Paul had tons of credibility- not merely because he was transparent, but because he was truthful- truthful in terms of “words backed up by actions!”
He essentially tells Timothy, “You’ve seen me live out what I say, that’s the way you need to live to.”. He tells him in 1 Tim. 4:12, “Don’t make your youthfulness an excuse. Live out what you say. Be an example of the words of truth you teach.”
Truthfulness establishes credibility because it has nothing to do with what we say and everything to do with how we live! A major strike against the church, and one that Barna and others sadly report on every year, is that “the church just doesn’t live what it says!” And it doesn’t take people long to figure out that we’re not only not very real, we’re not very reliable!
Truthfulness is “the Word becoming flesh!” What else do we have to back up or support what we claim except the example of our lives?? The reason, beyond salvation, that Jesus stepped into our world in human form, was because God was fed up with the manipulation and hypocrisy when it came to His Word- so He came and lived it so nobody could doubt or deny it!
The old saying is, “the proof is in the pudding!” It means, you can tell me that’s a rose bush, but I’ll believe it when I see the roses!” Truthful is being “full of truth!” It is the next step beyond transparency. It is the step of accountability. If transparency is all about authenticity, then truthfulness is all about accountability!
Ps. 34:8 “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” Too often when people really “taste” the church or our lives, they go away disappointed- it can be a bitter taste. Why? Because it’s not characteristic of Christ! (Gal. 5:22-23). The truth is, people need to experience the fruitfulness of our lives- which is Jesus’ personality and purpose! That’s what makes us accountable!
Without accountability not only are we not real, we are living a lie! We are deceiving ourselves and more seriously, we are deceiving others! We are claiming to be one thing, but in reality, we are something completely different. Again, “you know a tree by the fruit!” That’s powerful. That’s profound. That’s proof!
What is the “fruit” that you see in someone’s life? This isn’t being judgmental. This is being accountable- to yourself, to God, to others. Accountability is credibility! Paul is telling Timothy- “My life is accountable because I’m truthful! You know my actions. You know my life. I back up what I say…”
We need to be transparent- authentic, and we need to be truthful- accountable. These conditions must be present if spiritual development is going to happen optimally! In many ways, truthfulness is like “water and light” in a greenhouse- it promotes growth and health.
Question: “Are you truthful? Are you accountable? Do you live what you say? Do you/we have credibility?”
Condition #3: Trust- Acceptable, Confidence…
I’m telling you, transparency plus truthfulness equals trust every time! Without trusting relationships there is no faith. How can you have faith in God if you don’t trust Him? How can you have faith in others if you don’t trust them?
Timothy trusted Paul. Why? Because he had confidence in him! Credibility says, “You’ve got my interest.” Confidence says, “You’ve got my investment- I’m all in! I accept who you are and what you’re about!” I’ve said many times, the church needs to stop talking about being relevant, and specifically focus on restoring our credibility so people can have confidence in us once again! People will never accept who we are or what we’re about until they have confidence in us.
Spiritual greenhouse conditions has to be about transparency which creates the right climate that enables connections to happen, truthfulness that gives us credibility, and trustworthiness that builds and sustains confidence. When people lose confidence they not only lose trust, they lose hope!
Paul is telling Timothy, “You have confidence in me because you know my life. We have a proven track record over time. I’ve been transparent and truthful.”.
Look at 2 Tim. 3:10-17
Paul tells him, “You know my life, my example. You have confidence in me because I’ve proven my character, I keep my commitments… You know you can trust those who taught you!” The bottom line is that without “trust”, just like without water or light or other necessary elements, you’re not going to experience life at the fullest. When we don’t trust each other its because somewhere we’ve lost credibility, we haven’t been truthful, we haven’t been transparent, real. Without trust, everything is not only suspicious, more seriously, everything becomes self-absorbed, defensive, anger and bitterness begin to emerge and take over!
Basically, lack of trust is like a garden or a greenhouse that is overrun with weeds and plant-devouring insects, diseases, that choke out the life, that destroy the life. So, consider that in terms of our relationships, our groups, our churches, etc. Is it any wonder that we end up with this overgrown, entanglement, of all sorts of religious stuff and activity??
Where does this come from? It happens because we’ve lost trust, we have no confidence in leadership, in fellow believers, and so we lose purpose and we lose hope and we all just kind of do our own thing. And if this happens in the church, is it any wonder that the culture no longer trust us or has any confidence in us??
You had confidence that your car would start this morning… unless it didn’t start yesterday, or last week… You don’t always have confidence in the weatherman, or a politician, or sadly…. the church!
Why? Because oftentimes there’s no consistency of character or proven ability over time! We desperately need that consistency of Jesus’ character in our own lives and in the church if people are to trust us and restore their confidence in us! To fulfill Jesus’ ultimate purpose- “make disciples… and for Jesus to increase and for us to decrease” and for the culture to take us seriously again, then we’re going to have to gain people’s trust and confidence again. And the only way that can happen is if we restore credibility; which means we must function transparently/authentically!
The impact of Paul’s life, the young men that he mentored, the churches he planted was because he knew what the right conditions were to promote optimum spiritual development!
Question: “Are you trustworthy? Do people have confidence in you? Have you lost confidence in something, someone?” Do people accept you/us? Do we cultivate an environment of acceptance… of others and others of us??”
Today we need to resolve the issue of what it really takes to develop spiritually, and to multiply disciples. We must understand that we need spiritual greenhouses that are conditioned by transparency, truthfulness, and trust.
We need to resolve to be authentic because our lives are an open book, to be credible because we live what we say, and to be trustworthy because we have a proven record of consistency in character over time.