[To access all of the posts in this series, visit the "Church in Arequipa" tag.]
The thing about a multiplying, mobile, organic church network is that it is unstable. Of course, one missionary’s unstable is another missionary’s flexible and dynamic. The question most missionaries ask themselves, though, is, what am I leaving behind? Stability is alluring because it provides an answer to that question. The located, identifiable entity makes me feel sure that the investment paid off. The evidence of my work is X number of churches planted in X locations.
But as I said previously, we are not so much church planting as kingdom sowing. Church happens as the seeds of the kingdom take root, but this is not synonymous with the “establishment” of congregations. Yet, I have spent my whole life in established congregations, and it has been difficult, at least unconsciously, to expect a different outcome in our Arequipa work.
I like the movie Second Hand Lions. In one scene, the two cantankerous hermits Garth and Hub decide to buy seeds from a traveling salesman who braves their shotgun-wielding hospitality. They expect to plant a garden full of different vegetables, but once their crops come up, they realize that they have been duped. Despite the pictures on the packets, every seed was corn.
I am coming to accept fully that kingdom sowing in Arequipa does result in congregations, but those congregations are like dandelions rather than trees. Their purpose is to grow into clusters of seeds that will disperse when the Wind blows. Megan was wondering aloud the other night whether some of the Christians we meet with right now will stick together once we are gone. Some of them will, I expect, in one way or another. They are forming bonds that are not easily broken. But as a congregation, no, they will not. As Garth and Hub found out, you only harvest what you plant. We are planting dandelions, so I don’t expect them to grow into trees. I hope to see them become a thousand more seeds blown to new earth by the Spirit.
This means that church here is not about an established community identity—being “_______ church family.” Instead, Christian community is collective discipleship that constantly morphs as disciples come and go, as communities grow and multiply or merge and spin off. Our task, then, is to disciple as Jesus did; this is kingdom sowing. Where those disciples end up may not be quite as easy to pinpoint in retrospect, but I take comfort in God’s ability to plant them firmly where they need to be once they have gone to seed. The more I embrace the dandelion church, the more I am able to let go of the established church aspirations that lurk in my subconscious values and pour myself completely into just discipling.