We moved into our house about 9 years ago. It was built in 1980. We had two beautiful Silver Maple trees in the front yard. Last year they died. It was sort of a slow death, but they both began dying at about the same time. It was a bummer to watch because they provided some nice shade in the yard. We finally had to take them down. I later learned that many builders will plant Silver Maple trees because they grow relatively fast. Nobody wants to have little trees in their yard, at least not in this neighborhood lined with huge, beautiful shade trees. So I was talking to my brother (who has a forestry degree) about what would be the best tree to plant. He said that oak trees don’t grow quickly but they are strong, hardy trees that provide lots of great shade eventually. The maple often dies off after 30-40 years while the oak can live to 100-200 years.
My brother and I had not only been talking about trees, we talked about our futures and where we wanted to be and become. As we were walking out of the house I said, “Imagine a big shade tree there.” He turned around and said, “That’s it, ‘imagine’! We’ve got to imagine what we want to see happening before we do things.” Doesn’t that seem to be the nature of ministry sometimes? We busy ourselves with quick fixes and compelling programs to get immediate results, “get our numbers up” or get people in the pews when really we need to be imagining what is needed to develop deep, sustainable faith in people’s lives.
What if we imagined lifelong faith rather than short-term fixes?
While we are often concerned about “seeing” the fruits of our labors, God is concerned about a deep, lifelong relationship that makes a difference in our daily lives and bears fruit until our time on this earth is done.
What do you imagine? Do you imagine 50 youth in your youth room, or young people seeking out a faith community after high school because faith is part of who they are? Do you imagine families showing up to your annual picnic, or families praying together in living rooms? Do you imagine various age groups huddled together, or generations weaving faith into the fabric of life?
For the church to flourish we need to tap into God’s imagination. Are we planting and sustaining things that have a short life, or putting down deep roots and trusting that God gives us all we need for a strong, transformational, lifelong faith?
What kind of trees are you planting?