Last week I wrote a blog entry about some parallels I saw between sustainable farming and healthy ministry practices. I was surprised by how many similarities I found. If you missed last week’s blog, check it out here.
Another parallel I discovered was in the history of farming and in the steps forward that need to be taken to achieve sustainability.
From the same article on sustainable farming published by the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis, I found this section on the historical context of changes in farming.
“Agriculture has changed dramatically, especially since the end of World War II. Food and fiber productivity soared due to new technologies, mechanization, increased chemical use, specialization and government policies that favored maximizing production. These changes allowed fewer farmers with reduced labor demands to produce the majority of the food and fiber in the U.S.”
Just as mass production and technology made possible the movement from many small farms to fewer large farms, a similar dynamic has taken place among churches. Although most Americans still attend small or medium-sized churches, we’ve also seen a rise in the number of mega-churches. Why? The invention of the automobile and commuting. The specialization and professionalization of ministry. The expectation of uniform goods and services.
But what is the impact on our health? The development of our future leaders? Our long-term sustainability and independence? I’m not against larger churches, but the questions are worth asking. After all, larger churches can also practice sustainability if they’re intentional about the choices they make. For example, getting people into small groups or other clusters maintains the relational connections and often the serving component as well.
Interestingly, the way forward for farms—and churches—that want to shift to sustainable practices looks similar as well:
“Making the transition to sustainable agriculture is a process. For farmers, the transition to sustainable agriculture normally requires a series of small, realistic steps. Family economics and personal goals influence how fast or how far participants can go in the transition. It is important to realize that each small decision can make a difference and contribute to advancing the entire system further on the ‘sustainable agriculture continuum.’ The key to moving forward is the will to take the next step.”
And so it is with us: “The key to moving forward is the will to take the next step.”