There is such a thing as an optimal environment for everything in life.
Optimal environments for raising children.
Optimal environments for pets.
Optimal work environments.
Optimal health environments.
And so on.
There is one thing I’ve been learning with my wife as we explore growing our own food that stands out pretty clearly in my mind, and that is this: there is an optimal environment for growing various plants.
Some plants grow better in some environments over others. It’s not saying it’s impossible to make those plants grow in sub-optimal environments, it just means it will be met with great frustration and difficulty to accomplish, and may not produce the results you were expecting to get (if it produces any results at all).
For some plants you may have to give up on the idea of growing it in your region. Or it may be that you will need to find a way to harness an optimum environment with what you have (better soil, green house, growing indoors, etc). Either way – you don’t want to spend your life as a gardener trying to force plants to grow in a sub-optimal environment. It will drive you absolutely crazy and could potentially be a huge waste of time.
As I was picking up a riding lawn mower this evening from a friend, a thought occurred to me as we talked. The thought was this:
There is such a thing as an optimal environment for the church.
The issue is…no one wants to admit that maybe, just maybe, the environment they are trying to force the church to thrive in may in fact be a sub-optimal environment.
Church leaders – let me encourage you by saying this – admitting you have been attempting to sow seeds of church growth in a sub-optimal environment doesn’t mean that you are a failure. It just means you recognize that what you are doing may not be producing the best fruit (or any fruit) because it is not the optimal environment for the flourishing of the church.
For example: I am not anti-mega church. I do, however, believe it is a sub-optimal environment to effectively foster and equip the church to do the work of the ministry for many many reasons that I’m not going to go into here.
Can it be done in a mega-church environment? Sure!
But there is a strong likelihood that you will be met with an immense amount of frustration and difficulty and perhaps even find that the vast majority of the ones in attendance to your local gathering is not functioning as a healthy member of the church body.
And not to let small churches off the hook on this one, here’s another example:
I am a firm believer that the very structure of church government and church model that practically every church follows in the west is sub-optimal.
Again, can it be done? Surely.
But like with mega-churches, because it is sub-optimal you will be met with a great deal of frustration, difficulty and find that the vast majority of those in attendance to your local gathering is not functioning as a healthy member of the church body.
So, what then, is the answer?
First of all – humility. Being humble enough to admit that maybe we are off the mark is a great first step. It’s also the hardest first step. It is also the one step that many in your local church gathering may not be able to get on board with because they too are stuck in an assumed mindset that they are doing it right and that the problem is just the culture. But, if the leaders of the church are willing to humble themselves and take ownership of the course the church has taken, then we can really begin to make headway in correcting its course.
Second of all – creativity. Begin to explore the early church and what is required of the church. Begin to foster a creative and optimal environment based on what God requires of us, and what your specific community needs. Start looking at the countless ways that the church can express itself in its community.
The hard part about this step is that this may require trashing everything you currently do and put a flame to it. However, it may only require minor tweaks. Or, it may require something in between. This will all be entirely dependent on where you and your local church gathering currently are and where you need to be in order to achieve an optimal healthy environment.
Now the question and call for action…where do YOU need to begin, and what will YOU do to get the ball rolling in the right direction?