Trees in the City
written by Rev Gary Heard

In some waiting moments during the week, I found time to reflect upon the city images surrounding me. Before me stood some trees, standing somewhat defiantly against the backdrop of concrete buildings, a reminder of natureís beauty in the midst of a man-made environment. I pondered the trees and their growth, wondering whether their height, or the spread their branches would eventually encroach upon the architectural space into which they had been planted. It suddenly dawned on me that the trees had been chosen because their characteristics made such outcomes unlikely. They were there to complement the structures, to reassure us that nature had not been destroyed, rather than to grow freely.

It gave me pause to wonder at the way in which church communities were built. Jesus chose people whose thinking was not shaped by mainstream, and who regularly pushed the boundaries, whose questions and actions were often unruly and disheveled. Rather than forming a neatly sculpted community, they were a rag-tag collection of individuals prone to idiosyncratic choices and behaviours. Yet these people were to be the foundation of the church.
Most contemporary models of church growth do not encourage such ways. Keeping a unified vision and cohesive leadership group is valued over such unpredictable diversity. I must admit to finding difficulty in reconciling this with the gospel.

As we contemplate the future of this church, we need to check our inclinations: Would we choose people who will not stretch the boundaries of what we might deem to be acceptable? Will we try to create an environment in which we feel comfortable, in such a way as to avoid important issues of community life and faith? Or are we prepared for the wild unpredictability of Godís Spirit at work through often strange and varied circumstances and people. Instinctively, I know which answer I prefer. For the sake of the kingdom, I pray for the other.

April 14, 2002
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