The longer we live in the milieu of the “church,” that is, the body of Christ, the more we are struck by the challenges and difficulties of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ in the midst of a broken and fallen world around us and within us.
Sometimes, to be honest, we look to the farm as an escape hatch of sorts. It feels like a place where the normal “rules” don’t apply, and where people can just be people. We pray daily that it is a place where our community, in a very real sense, is centered in Christ.
One of the common sayings at the farm is that there are two types of equipment — broken equipment and equipment that will be broken. It is an acknowledgment that even with proper maintenance this is a hostile world, and farm equipment eventually breaks down and needs repair and restoration.
People are no different. This world is hard. Sometimes the crushing load, the duration of hard service and the “soil conditions” wear us down.
We are reminded that the church is a hospital. The church is the place where broken people may find healing and compassionate care.
Mark 2:17 — “On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”
We knew at the outset of this farming ministry 20 years ago, that this adventure would be no different, maybe even the same as “the church universal.” Help us, Lord! And graciously, he has!
So, 20 years into this experiment in ministry, we hear the words of the apostle Paul to the church in Rome — a church, by the way, that he did not plant and did not meet until he visited as a prisoner.
Romans 15:1-6 — “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.
“Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.
“For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written, ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.’
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.
“So that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We acknowledge that our farm is not like other farms. We are, in every possible sense, dependent upon teamwork. We are a collection of volunteers who are united in the purpose of feeding the hungry. We are a farm like many farms, but also unlike most farms. We grow food for the hungry as a Christian ministry. However, our farm must function like any other, because we are not above the basic agricultural (and Biblical) principle that you reap what you sow.
So, here we are, a band of brothers and sisters, knit together in purpose and in heart. And Paul instructs us to keep these thoughts first and foremost:
• We must love one another, consider one another, put what is best for one another first.
• Be steadfast in our pursuit of truth through study of the Scripture. It is only the truth that will set us free and lead us into the life of joy and peace that God promises.
• Live in harmony. We can give voice and expression to different opinions, but only in the community of love and harmony can these expressions be fully enlivened.
• It is the hope of Christ that is fully alive in man. We may hope for worldly things, but it is only in the power of Christ that our deepest and most authentic hope is realized.
• Our example is always and only Christ. We do not have to try to figure out what this looks like. It looks like Jesus Christ.
• Our fellowship will always be characterized by praise. Praise always has been and always will be the hallmark of our faith. God is good! Now and always! We praise him for what he has done, for what he is doing and for what will be to come! Amen, amen and amen!
So although our farm may be unique in some important respects, it is still a working machine, composed of sprockets, chains, bearings, belts and many other parts. It is about Christian teamwork, devotion to stewardship and taking the time to listen to others. It is about order, not chaos, and each part performing as it should as part of the whole. It is about unity of purpose, bound together by the centrality of Christ. Ah, the church.
Don’t shrink from it. Step into it. Lean into it. With God’s help and provision, we can be who we are purposed to be — the people of God for the people of God.
This post was originally published on Lancaster Farming.