A Pumpkin in a Jar1
It’s fall (though the weather might not seem like it).
The season’s change reminded me a powerful metaphor in the book Church Unique used by our Staff and Session to develop our new mission statement. Author Will Mancini writes,
A pumpkin farmer was strolling through his rows of beautiful green leaves at the beginning of the season, as the acorn-size pumpkins were starting to add dots to the landscape. He glanced down and noticed a clear glass jar. Curiosity got the best of him, so he took the jar over to one of his pumpkin buds, threaded the small pumpkin on its vine inside the open jar, and left it sitting there in the field.
Months later, with the experiment long forgotten, the farmer was walking his land, greatly satisfied with the large beautiful pumpkins that covered the patch. He rediscovered the glass jar, totally intact, and was startled to see it completely filled up with the little pumpkin that grew inside. The thin glass barrier had defined the shape of the orange mass within. The pumpkin was only one-third the size it should have been.
The problem for this little pumpkin is the same problem for most churches today. Rather than growing to their full potential from their unique DNA, they conform to the shape of an external mold or model. These 'glass jars' create invisible barriers to growth and predetermine the shape of community for churches across the country.
After two years of focus groups with charter members and new members, of reading books and attending meetings, our Staff and Session have decided on a new mission statement:
Inviting all people to grow into a Christ-centered life in God’s family.
It’s our conviction that this best represents how we can grow into our full potential, like one of those "large beautiful pumpkins," instead of being restrained by an invisible glass barrier that keeps us a particular size or shape. Like we saw in worship last Sunday, there are no such barriers the Kingdom of God! And while it’s helpful to think through those barriers, it’s also important to engage the nourishment needed for growth into being a "large beautiful pumpkin."
If we are to grow into our full potential,
- We must be equipped to share our faith with others around us, pointing them to the good news of God’s love in Jesus, like the earliest followers of Jesus in the Book of Acts,
- We must regularly deepen our faith by feeding on the riches of God’s Word, both in weekly worship and individual devotion,
- We must allow our faith to flourish in communal study and prayer, and
- We must nurture others in their spiritual development.
In 1st Corinthians 3.6-8, Paul writes,
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.
We could insert our own names of leaders who have planted and watered the seeds of the gospel in our midst. Ultimately, though, may we look to God who brings growth! And may God - our Heavenly Farmer! - be greatly satisfied with the pumpkin we become!