Something about spring, the promise of avocados, and church planting

Something about spring, the promise of avocados, and church planting

Our avocado tree is in the process of budding and it’s teeming. The tree is six years old and I’ve never seen it so abundant with the promise of fruit for the season ahead. The only tree on our plot giving it a run for its money right now is our mango out the front. Combine these two and you’ve got strong signs of the kingdom coming in all its fullness!

Given previous posts about propagating church plants and the joys of growing avocados, it’s hard not to get a little excited. Certainly for the avocado season ahead, but also for the planting of more churches.

Of course, one activity isn’t tied to the other, and, more importantly, I can only influence either at the edges, but in my mind at least, the thoughts are tethered so they’re worth exploring.

To look at the tree right now is to catch a sea of promise. Hundreds and hundreds, perhaps thousands and thousands, of buds are bursting from each branch of the tree. It’s hard not to leap at the notion that we’ll be in full-scale commercial production by early 2017. It feels like I should be ordering cartons and those moulded green plastic inserts that keep the fruit in their places.

Then I’m reminded: it’s a bud, not a fruit. It’s a sign of life, but not the life of a maturing avocado. It’s a reason to be expectant, excited even, but perhaps a little early to be negotiating a contract with Spudshed. This dose of reality shouldn’t lead to disappointment, though. It should merely moderate my enthusiasm and steer it towards other thoughts.

What should I be feeding the tree right now? Are my regular contributions with urination enough? Should I be pruning some branches or have I already missed the boat on that one?

There are some things of which I am sure when it comes to my avocado tree. No matter how prolific the potential of the harvest right now, the reality will be some small fraction of its current promise. While last year wasn’t quite the cornucopia of current indications, I’m still sobered by the actual result: nine avocados. Small ones, too.

As we’ve kept fanning the flame of our call to plant and keep planting churches at The Big Table, I’ve had similar bouts of ebullience tempered by sobriety. Excited expectations fanned by the Holy Spirit, yet a staunch desire to refrain from being prescriptive about how those expectations might play out.

We’re soon to roll out a series of church planting sessions that are simply called #plant. They’re not laden with any assumption of call, commitment or timeline, they’re simply an open forum for the interested and inquisitive in our church communities to walk through the process of planting at The Big Table as best we know it so far. They’re an opportunity to ask every kind of question about church planting (without any guarantees of erudite responses!) They may also be the opportunity to discover that the things about which we can have greatest reservations are often the things of lesser import, and how head and heart are best occupied by some of the things that perhaps, at the outset, we don’t deem as crucial. That’s the notion at the heart of #plant: to start framing a picture of how we go about planning, preparing, and positioning ourselves to plant when the primary worker is Jesus.

While I’ve considered a long list of potential questions that we might explore, I’m anticipating that there’ll be many more that I’ve either forgotten might be important, or have been given the perspective of time.

I’m excited that we have three couples who are keen to be part of that conversation at this point. Given my tendency to see upside, I imagine that all three will plant Big Tables in the next ten minutes and, as a result, I may need to refrain from sharing this post with them! But I know, just like I do with my humble avocado tree, laden as it is, that fruit takes time. There’s a long distance between a bud and a harvest. Much tending, loving, ‘one-anothering’, pruning and watering, before anything at all happens. And all of these things must be done with care and expectation, but no agenda.

I’m far more likely to be spreading a harvested avocado on bread sooner than breaking bread within a new Big Table community, but in so many ways, that’s not the point. What is? Faithfulness. We have a firm conviction as a group of disciples following Jesus and sharing the Gospel, that we are to plant churches and create spaces where people can encounter Jesus for the first time, the first time in a long time, or continually through faithful lives of worship.

Between the expectation of Spudshed-sized harvests and the reality of last year’s bowl of nine avocados, is the confidence that Jesus does the growing – both in our churches, in the lives of those who call Him ‘Lord’, and in the birthing of new things for His glory. It doesn’t stop the dreaming or the faithful work, but it sure takes the weight off our shoulders.

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