Growing Pumpkins

When I was a student at Mount Union (back when it was a college, not a university) every fall a ginormous pumpkin would appear in the cafeteria.  Dr. Paul Froman grew it on his farm, and I always wanted to see it delivered.  This pumpkin would fill the back of a pickup truck and, I’m sure, would require a squad of people to actually move it.  But it was worth the work.  This pumpkin was spectacular every year.

According to horticulturists, growing a pumpkin like this takes some strategy.  Very early in the growing season the farmer must select which pumpkin he is going to commit to keeping and must prune off all the others.  Every other day he should inspect the vine carefully and remove any new starts, including any roots that have begun to burrow.  Allowing other, smaller pumpkins to grow saps vital nutrients and energy from the plant, stunting the growth of the large pumpkin. 

In Bearing Fruit, Ministry with Real Results, Dr. Lovett Weems’ co-author, Rev. Tom Berlin wrote about the power of a god-sized vision.  His church in suburban Washington, DC, set out to fund an orphanage in Sierra Leone.  Inspired by the vision, the congregation raised five times more money than the original goal.  Mission teams were sent to Africa to establish relationships.  Soon the original building was outgrown and a new one was constructed, with the old facility being used as a hospital.

Which raises the question, “So why hasn’t your church gone off and started an orphanage in Africa?”  OK, OK, few of our churches are large enough to tackle a project like this, but god-sized visions come in a variety of scales.  But is your church so busy growing small pumpkins that the vine doesn’t have energy left to grow something god-sized?  Is your church consumed with other projects and therefore doesn’t have time to be fruitful?  As the book says:

“The problem in many churches related to fruitfulness is not that so much is at stake that priorities are underresourced. ‘We would do more if we had more,’ we like to say of ourselves.  The problem is that so little is at stake that there is nothing to which church members can dedicate themselves. ‘We would do more if we had something to do,’ may be what the people of your congregation are saying if we just listened.”

Does your church have a god-sized vision?  If not, why not?  That is not a rhetorical question and it certainly doesn’t mean to scold.  God-sized visions bring a congregation together, challenge them to reach deeper in terms of finances, time commitments and faith development. 

It may be time to prune back the pumpkin vine, pinch off those tiny pumpkins and focus your church on a god-sized vision.

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