By Lane Corley
I enjoy gardening. Even though I’m not very good at it. Why? I don’t always have the time to do what’s necessary to grow and multiply plants to their fullest extent. The best gardeners know how and put in the time to create the right conditions for growth and multiplication. The very best gardeners will start with a greenhouse to nurse the plants in early stages before they are ever put in the ground. A greenhouse is a tool where you can create the perfect conditions for multiplication & growth of plants at all different stages and with various needs.
I enjoy gardening in part because of the many parallels it has to church planting and ministry. I’ve began to see church as a greenhouse – a tool to create the right conditions for multiplication & growth OF DISCIPLES. Here are five truths I’m learning on church as a GREENHOUSE:
- Disciples must be nurtured.
Like plants, like a garden, like a greenhouse, disciples need time and attention. One of the greatest books on discipleship has in its title a reminder we constantly need – Disciples Are Made, Not Born. While we are not completely responsible for the growth of a disciple, part of our commission from Jesus requires time and attention and energy and prayer, etc., etc., etc. One of the greatest disciple makers, the apostle Paul, said it like this in Colossians 1:28-29,
“We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.”
If we’re going to make disciples, we must expect to give much time and attention to people from sharing the gospel, teaching basic truths, responding to questions, correcting, forgiving, etc., etc.
- A Disciple’s needs change over time.
A greenhouse or a garden is organized based on maturity and needs of the plants. Expectation are based upon time and stage of growth. Just like this, as churches, we need to provide a variety of opportunities for growth for people at different stages of maturity. And we need to teach our leaders what you can expect from people as they grow. The best tool I’ve seen that helps with this is Jim Putman’s great book Real Life Discipleship and the Discipleship Training Manual. Putman guides readers to understand where people are spiritually based upon what they say, and then how to respond and what to provide for them at that stage. (See my post Things Spiritual Infants Say for a run down).
- Disciples will eventually need to be sent out from the greenhouse to multiply themselves.
The Greenhouse is not the final destination for a plant, nor is the Sunday worship service the climax of maturity for the disciple. Just like plants are meant to be outside, producing fruit and multiplying, disciples should be trained, equipped, and released into this world for maximum fruitfulness and to multiply the gospel in their sphere of influence.
- Not all disciples will respond to the conditions you create.
A hard reality to face for the gardener, and much harder for the disciple maker is the truth that some plants and some people just won’t respond to the conditions you create. It hurts when a disciple doesn’t respond to God’s word. It hurts when a disciple leaves your church, but maybe they needed conditions you couldn’t provide at the time. Jesus even said that perhaps only 25% of disciples would become fruitful (Matthew 13). It’s important to remember that we’re responsible for our faithfulness, not everyones response.
- The church is the perfect tool to create the conditions for multiplication & growth of Disciples.
The church, with all its imperfections, does provide a perfect environment for growth of disciples. A church offers opportunities to learn from those walking with God for years, opportunities to get involved and serve in various capacities, opportunities to have relationship wins and losses. These and other conditions help us grow. A lack of desire to learn, serve, love, and forgive REVEALS a lot about where we are spiritually and our potential for fruitfulness, maturity, and multiplication.
Does your church function as a Greenhouse? How are plants maturing? Are you providing opportunities for people at different stages of growth? Are you training your leaders to know what to expect as people grow? Are you moving people out to multiply in their world? Are you spending time with people that just refuse to grow & may need different conditions or to be let go?
Greenhouse: Basic Training for Church Multiplication
I’m humbled & excited to be involved with training church planters in Louisiana & our latest training is now called Greenhouse: Basic for Multiplying Disciples, Leaders, Groups, & Churches. Next one is right around the corner, Sept. 15-16 at Acadian Baptist Center in Eunice. It’s free. You can join us & work on your GREENHOUSE. Register HERE.
Lane Corley is a church planting strategist for Louisiana Baptists and serves as pastor of the Bridge Church in Madisonville.