Another great post by Pastor Philip Hoppe’s blog, Meditations of the Heart:
At the Kansas District Convention, we discussed the program called TCN (Transforming Churches Network) that is being used in many of our districts. Actually, more accurately we discussed a resolution about TCN. Unfortunately, much of the discussion ended up being a debate about the nature of the resolution, it’s origin and intention, and why it had not reached the floor in a normal way.
As anyone who was there knows, I spoke on this resolution several times. As I reflect on what I said, most of it I stand behind firmly. The only part I regret is that I assumed that all of the delegates there had read the rationale for the resolution. Having attended several conventions, I admit that assumption was naïve. Many do not read the material beforehand due to their other vocations. Also, our chair, district president Keith Kohlmeier, chose not to have the “whereas” statements read when the resolution came to the floor. I referenced them but I should have done a better job at simply explaining the rationale for the resolution.
So why am I opposed to our Kansas District spending money on this project and promoting it vigorously? Let me refer to the gospel text for this upcoming Sunday in our three-year lectionary.
Mark 4:26-29 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
We are to scatter seed. Every pastor and congregation must be about the job of scattering seed onto the ground. The seed is the word of God. On this, no doubt myself and those who support TCN are in agreement.
When we scatter the seed, it sprouts and grows. God’s word is effective for the purposes which he sent it. And certainly, one of his purposes is that through the planting of his word, his kingdom would grow.
The parable says of the one planting, “he knows not how.” All the farmer knows is that when he puts the seed in the ground it sprouts and grows. He can only explain it by observing what he sees happening right before his eyes.
TCN and others like it suggest that they do know how it all works. They suggest that there are certain processes and systems that are essential to making sure the seed sprouts and grows. In one sectional I attended with Dr. Terry Tieman, the director of TCN, he said that if you followed his processes and systems, it would work unquestionably. This suggests he knows how. He has figured out the secret to effective mission work through human reason and verifiable evaluation.
I believe there is no secret. The secret has been revealed already in parables like the one above. The Church spreads the seed. The seed sprouts and grows when and where the Spirit wills and is not rejected. The Church reaps the harvest. It really is that simple.
The obvious problem is that so many times we do not simply scatter the seed. I am painfully aware of this sin in my own life and in the lives of my people. But I do not believe that we need systems and processes to fix this. We simply need to confess that sin, be forgiven, and be raised up with open mouths full of good news about Jesus.
When we get wrapped up in the how, we lose the amazement that comes from the fact that the growth only comes through God’s doing. We should instead simply confess with humble amazement, “We know not know.”
When we get wrapped up in the how, we can easily begin to believe that it is the process and the systems and not the seed itself that is effective unto growth in the kingdom of God. And to become convinced of that is to no longer give the Father the glory due to him in giving us a powerful seed. It is to rob Word incarnate Jesus the glory due to him for placing the power in that word through his death and resurrection. It is to rob the Spirit of the glory that is his in working faith.
This is why I spoke against TCN. If I did not make this clear at the convention, I apologize wholeheartedly. To God alone be the glory.