I don’t like mustard. Even brown mustard is something I usually avoid, and I am most definitely not a fan of the yellow stuff.
But I got a fresh glimpse of the mustard tree this morning, and I want to share my thoughts about it.
Mark 4:30-32 has Jesus talking about the tiny mustard seed, which becomes the giant mustard tree. This is pretty familiar to most of us. But back up, if you will, to verses 26-29. This is where Jesus gives us a type of “bridge” parable, between the Parable of the Sower (v.3-20) and that of the mustard seed.
He says that the Kingdom of God is like a man who plants his seeds, and then goes to bed, wakes up, goes to bed, etc, and the seeds grow into a crop. Naturally it is assumed that he waters and tends the plants, but Jesus points out that the farmer is not “making” it grow. And doesn’t really even know how it grows. He just plays his meager part, and then grabs the sickle when it’s harvest time.
What would you think of a farmer who walked over to a little sprout and started yanking on it, shouting for it to grow faster? “I planted you, I watered you, and now I’m going to sculpt you into the biggest crop in the county! Now grow, damn you!” Not too bright, eh?
Now what about those church-planters or pastors or evangelists or even missionaries who have decided that they know how a church grows? They have the research and the figures and the strategies, and are prepared to train you to know exactly how to grow a tiny fellowship of believers into a vast and influential congregation, or network of congregations. They don’t plant the seed, and water it, and wait patiently for it to grow… they pull it out of the ground, assuming that it’s all up to them.
Jesus made it clear that we have our role to play in the Kingdom of God… we are certainly not spectators. But the growing itself is left entirely up to him. It happens by means that remain a mystery to us, so long as we’re honest.
All we have to ask ourselves is, are we to be part of the Kingdom of God, or are we perhaps more interested in the Kingdom of Church?