Growing Grass, Killing Weeds

Last fall a roofer came to our house and tore up the yard with the scaffolding. Then the power company came in and tore up the yard even more with their monstrous equipment to relocate a pole and move our service box. The yard was a mess all winter after the trenching and digging. Now it’s time to clean up. That means planting grass. Quite of bit of it, to be precise.

Our housing was in slow transition for three years until we bought a house last August. At our old house I worked hard to take care of the lawn. I mowed it very neatly, bagged the clippings, and deposited them in Carol’s garden. I dethatched every year or two, pulled buckets and buckets of dandelions, sprayed for anthills and applied a series of seasonal fertilizer/weedkilling treatments to the lawn.

But rarely did I plant new grass. Now I have to do it. I’m learning that planting new grass seed requires conditions quite different than simply caring for an old lawn. When I bought grass seed last week, there was a stern warning on the bag: DO NOT APPLY WEED KILLER FOR SEVERAL WEEKS AFTER PLANTING. Killing weeds is my specialty. But apparently I can’t do that if I want to grow new grass. It seems I must choose between planting new seed and killing weeds, especially if I want to do both at the same time.

The same thing is true in the church. There are times and situations when we have to choose between killing spiritual weeds and growing new spiritual grass. In our older established church, we are expert weed killers. We can spot doctrinal error or moral deviance with ease – and we immediately move to condemn it. Those who are already established in Christ seem to thrive in that weed-killing environment. But it doesn’t provide a healthy soil for growing new believers. So we rarely see them. New Life Church is not doing a good job of producing new believers.

If we want to produce new grass in the church, maybe we’re going to have to lay off the weedkiller. There might be a time later for killing weeds. But if we want to produce new, tender plants, maybe we must create a completely different kind of environment.

Jesus’ story about the wheat and the weeds (Matt. 13:24-30) illustrates the spiritual environment needed for growing new seeds. It’s right there in the text. We can’t grow a new crop by killing weeds! But that’s what do. While we’re busy trying to identify weeds and rip them out of the ground, Jesus’ concern is to protect all the good seed. We routinely ignore Jesus’ warning and keep trying to separate wheat from weeds. Tangled roots in the ecclesiastic soil make this a confusing and futile task. Good wheat invariably gets uprooted in the process and the harvest is lost. Good people get hurt. Lost people become cynical – for good reason. I’m not pointing fingers at anyone. I’m the best weedkiller in the church. But that’s not what I really want to be.

What do we need in the church instead? How about spiritual sonshine, water, and fertilizer in proper proportions?