Please find below my notes for this past weekend’s teaching at GCC- Transplanted on Purpose. This is Pt. 7 of the Spiritual Greenhouse Theology series. This material is copyrighted, so please use by permission only. Email email@example.com.
Big Idea: Plants are developed in a Greenhouse so they can be transplanted beyond the Greenhouse where they beautify, stabilize, and provide nourishment… So it is for your life as a follower of Jesus Christ!
As we’ve noted in this series, we are called to make disciples, to cultivate spiritual greenhouse conditions conducive to making disciples, so Jesus can increase and we can decrease.
The ultimate affect of this cannot be measured merely in traditional church metrics. It has to be measured in terms of the impact we are making on our culture. Interestingly, a just released survey reports that the median worship attendance at a typical congregation has declined again, from 130 to 108. According to the new Hartford Seminary study, Faith Communities Today, the percentage of congregations with an average weekly attendance of 100 or fewer moved from 42% to 49%. And more that 25% of all congregations had 50 or fewer in attendance. Churches with more than 2000 in attendance doubled, yet still make up only 0.5% of all congregations.
These numbers simply mean that mega churches are just getting a larger piece of an overall shrinking pie! Attendance does matter- but what does it tell us? What does 108 mean? It means we’re just swapping sheep and not experiencing true conversion/discipleship growth! It means we’re not leaving the 99 for the 1!
I’m going to do a 3-part series in November called “On Mission” so I won’t unpack this now, but I will say that it is crucial for us to recognize the importance of “expressing life beyond the ‘greenhouse’!” Being “transplanted on purpose!”
Note again, Matt. 28:18-20 18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Note again, Jn. 15:5-8 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”
These two statements by Jesus tell us two things: 1) Making disciples is initiated when we go into our culture, and 2) Jesus is with us, enabling us to actually make disciples! So, in effect, we cannot simply stay in the greenhouse- the church schedule or activities! We are intentionally transplanted into our culture, Jesus “with” us, to “express the life of Christ” where it matters most!
You are “planted” in the “climate” you are best suited for! Just like plants from a greenhouse- there is a climate that they best thrive in. Your life is on purpose- God puts you in the culture, the workplace, the situation where you can best thrive- your gifts, personality, abilities, Jesus shining through you- expressing life through you in the “climate” you are best suited for!
What does that expression look like? What is our purpose beyond the “greenhouse?” Consider this, plants, cultivated in a greenhouse environment, express “life” beyond the greenhouse in three primary ways: beautifying the landscape, stabilizing eroding soils, and producing “food” for people!
BEAUTIFY THE LANDSCAPE
People go to a greenhouse to purchase flowers and shrubs that will beautify their yard or the curb in front of their business or some other area they want to bring attention and attraction to! They specifically want these flowers and shrubs to make their yard or business look better!
Frankly, the parallel here is very obvious- Jesus, expressing life through you simply makes the world around you better. The “beauty” of Jesus changed everything. He makes all things new! Paul says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News!”
Consider this, the “landscape” of our culture, our world, is for the most part, a very ugly scene. From social injustice to abject poverty to human degradation and degeneration of both overt and convert sinful practices, to the worst ugliness of all- the total misrepresentation of who Jesus really is, we are surrounded by a broken world and barren landscape!
Consider the real hurt, pain, and ruin people experience because of abuse, bad choices, or church experiences that promote legalism or judgmentalism, and too many lives and families resemble the burned down homes or town that a raging fire has ravaged!
Jesus stepped into such a landscape… “to give beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, praise for despair…” Is. 61:3.
Jesus calls us to step into such a landscape of your “world”, he is with us, to live through us, to bring “beauty” to the ugliness of sin all around us. Jesus in and through us draws people attention and attracts them to the beauty that only Jesus can provide!
The “beauty in a greenhouse” is to be expected and doesn’t really impress anyone. But when that “Beauty” is transplanted it will draw attention- that’s the beauty of Christ: “He draws people to Himself!”
We are transplanted on purpose to bring the beauty of Jesus…
STABLIZE ERODING SOIL
When I worked for my father-in-law, our company reclaimed abandoned strip mining sites. To stabilize eroding mountainsides, we would plant hundreds of pine trees and other vegetation. They kept the soil from eroding and kept mountain slides from occurring…
I don’t think I need to make a very strong case at all for the erosion of morality in our culture today. The moral foundation of our culture and our nation is eroding at an unprecedented pace. University professors tout humanistic philosophies. Politicians make promises based on the prevailing winds of preference. Business seems to only care about profits and nothing else. Morality and acceptance of moral truth is eroding all around us!
And the church?? One great church leader after another has shamelessly fallen. Churches promote being relevant over being real. And as I mentioned earlier, Jesus is grotesquely misrepresented by picket signs and hypocrisy- as we either completely miss the point of the Gospel message or don’t take it seriously enough!
Without the presence of the church truly representing Christ in our culture we will only continue to see great moral erosion. You don’t plant a pine tree in a greenhouse to stop erosion, you plant a pine tree where the erosion is happening or you want it to keep from happening! God “transplants you on purpose” in your culture, your family, your workplace, your world, to stop the erosion of truth and what is right! You and I, as Jesus expresses life through us, are the only means by which people’s lives can find a sure and solid foundation! How else can marriages, relationships, families, youth, people find stability for life without Jesus Christ??
In a falling down and broken world, with the erosion of values, social justice, , etc. Jesus is the only answer- expressing life through us is the only stabilization people can truly experience! Jesus said in Luke 6, “If you hear and obey my word you are building your life on a solid foundation… despite the storms and floods, your life will stand!” How else can people experience this same stability of life unless we share it with them?
We are transplanted on purpose to bring real stability to people’s lives as the encounter Jesus and put their trust in His word…
We often forget that a “greenhouse” is not the “garden!” You don’t grow an apple orchard or a vineyard in a greenhouse! Yes, you cultivate the seedlings in the greenhouse, but ultimately in order to produce to optimum capacity, they must be transplanted in the field! Just as on that same note, a “barn” isn’t used to “produce” crops, it’s used to “store” the “harvest! The real work of the “ministry” takes place in the “mission field!”
We “bear much fruit” there, not necessarily here! Don’t confuse the need for the church or life group or mentoring relationships as what it means to produce the fruit Jesus is talking about in Jn. 15. Yes, it is part of the process, but ultimately producing fruit, souls, requires us to engage our culture- again, you are “transplanted on purpose” in the “cultural climate” you are best suited for!! Then we bring the “harvest” into the “storehouse” and we continue to discipleship process!
The motivation of the Spirit of Jesus in us is to the mission field. He wants to go there through our lives so people can “taste and see that the Lord is good!” Your neighbors, co-workers, family, friends, etc. that don’t have Christ, are feasting on a “diet” that will only result in spiritual death!
I know that sounds heavy, but its truth. We can no longer get away with merely inviting them here to “dine!” We need to offer people the opportunity to “taste”- experience Jesus as we genuinely relate him through our lives- and once they’ve “tasted” who he is and what he’s all about, they won’t want anything else!
We live in an area where health, eating right, exercising, etc. is significant in our culture. And yet, think about what our culture “feasts” on?? It’s a steady diet of everything and anything that only feeds self!
That’s why Jesus said things like, “I am the living water… I am the bread of life…” Only Jesus can provide ultimate health, vitality, life! Is my life, living water and bread of life to people??
We are transplanted on purpose- to beautify, stabilize, and nourish! When Jesus is living through us, people find beauty for ashes, they find a solid foundation, and they find sustenance for life!
“Is beauty more impactful in a greenhouse, or where there is a barren landscape?”
“Is stabilization/truth needed more in the very meticulously controlled environment of a greenhouse, or where storms and floods and winds cause erosion?”
“Is nourishment best served where there’s already an abundance, or where there is little or no healthy diet?”
I have several rather close friendships with colleagues at my workplace, – most of whom would not be considered “Christians”, by “Christians” who judge by whether someone is going to church, can speak Christianese, and appears to have it all together.
Funny thing is, through these friendships, I believe that I grow closer to Christ, and so do my friends. We are mirrors into one-another, and in my image reflected by others, throughh these mirrors, I certainly can see my failings and frailty, but also my influence as an imitator of Christ (Ephesians 5:1).
I am saying that not only do I like my job, I love the people there, who work for me, and whom I work for. I feel transplanted every morning. And I keenly have a sense of mission. Bringing Christ into my workplace is one interpretation of “Doing all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”
I don’t deserve such blessings.