It was, maybe 15 years ago or more.
I was talking to a vicar, I was thinking about ordination.
His take on the situation of the church in England was as follows:

This is a season in which most people have become closed to the gospel. The basic task of the church at the moment is to cling onto as many people as possible, until the prevailing mindset of the nation changes and we can begin to see growth again.

I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist.
I must admit that at times during my life and ministry this bleak assessment has felt true. The Person of peace principle suggests that we look for people who are open to the gospel. How does this principle work if we do not find people opened the gospel?

Lets talk about something else:

It’s been a great privilege to move into a house with an allotment as part of the garden. Well organised and ready to go. I am far from a master gardener. I have previously dabbled in growing soft fruit and seen some success, that small step forward is leading me to plant and work in the hope of seeing fruit and vegetables grown for me and my family.
I’m grateful for the help and support of my mother, a much more experienced and diligent gardener.

Even as an apprentice Gardener, I expect the ground to produce fruit. Not every seed I planned will grow to a fruit bearing size, but I expect at least half to survive the startings of growth in the greenhouse, the planting out, the ravages of weather and pests, to eventually produce fruit. I expect this to happen even under the occasionally misguided authority that I provide.

What is my hope in? My hope is in the simple truth that things grow. Everywhere I go I see the soil producing life and growth. I see everything from trees to grass to weeds to the amazing gardens at the Chelsea flower show. I know the Earth produces. Even in my incompetence I believe there should be fruit. I have books and support. The key thing which will dictate my success is the amount of effort I put in, how well I count the cost and do all that needs to be done as I’m informed by my books and my mentors.

I am at the whim of the weather, the rabbits and whatever else fallen creation throws at me. But I can build fences, read forecasts, water, feed and protect so regardless of the things I cannot control. I expect to be eating and drinking things throughout 2015 and 16 that have come from my own garden.

Back to the point:

I once asked Neil Cole, an amazing international house church planter, (the blurb on his books says that he “has catalysed the start of thousands of churches around the world”) a question:
“What is the furthest you have ever had to travel to find a Person of peace?”
He took a very long time in silence before answering the question. It was awkward! Then he simply said:
“The length of the street.”

If I do not expect anything to happen whilst I am working in my allotment, I am a fool. Either my expectation is correct and I should stop working or my expectation is false and I am wrong.

Every Christian can quote Bible verses, things along the line of “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not overcome it” or “the fields are right for harvest ask the Lord for more harvest workers.” You may have other verses that come to mind.
But rather than the triumphal things we state via our frontal lobes, do we subconsciously believe something different? One of the reasons I chose the church I did as my first place to lead in Nottingham was that there was nowhere to hide. If the seed of the gospel was not fruitful in me then it was highly unlikely that that church would grow and the proof or otherwise of the gospel I have staked my life on would be plain to see.

Are you convinced that the gospel is and can be fruitful in you? Not simply that you can get people to pray a prayer of faith, but that you can disciple people, make disciples of other human beings and teach them to be disciple makers. If you are not then I challenge you: Put yourself in a situation where you can answer this question once and for all. Not for a day or a week, but for a whole growing season a whole year. And take this advice from Max Lucado:


Everywhere I go I see things growing, I see plants and trees in fruitful earth. Everywhere I go I see disciples, disciples of Richard Dawkins, disciples of Russell Brand, disciples of their parents, disciples of benefit culture, disciples of affluenza. Human beings are fertile ground for discipleship, that is my humble opinion.

The simple choice of the church to quote one of my two favourite films is:

get busy living, or get busy dying.


three things to add, a quote and two blogs. consider them further reading if you fancy it…

We don’t plant churches, we plant the gospel, make disciples, collect in communities, and gather as congregations. The gospel is about being transformed and being formed in our gospel identity. We become a family of missionary servants sent as disciples who make disciples.

Caesar Kalinowski