Years ago, John Denver sang a song (written by Guy Clark) that says: “Only two things that money can’t buy / That’s true love and home-grown tomatoes.”
Cliff Temple Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, hosts a farmers’ market on the first Saturday of each month on our parking lot.
This past month there were vegetables and much more: tamales, jam, pickles, ice pops, caramels.
The products each month look delicious, and each grower/producer prides themselves on using natural methods and ingredients.
People get tired of mass-produced, preservative-laden products. More and more, they crave food that is prepared in a deliberate and thoughtful way.
Our area has become known for its community gardens (including our own), niche shops and quality restaurants that offer a different take on everyday foods.
So what does mission look like in North Oak Cliff, the neighborhood in which our congregation is located? What implications does such a home-grown flair have on the way that the gospel is offered? Let me plant four seeds in your mind.
1. Mission must be local.
Churches for many years encouraged people to simply give money to support missions around the world, but more and more people want local, hands-on connection with opportunities to serve.
You can pray for, encourage and give to people far away, but you can’t really love them in the way that Jesus loved the ones he served. Mission in the way of Jesus is always local, personal, authentic and embedded in culture.
What if God’s mission for you was home grown right in your neighborhood, or around the corner? What if there are people you overlook every day who need the love of Christ, and what would local mission in their direction look like?
2. Mission must be fresh.
The creative Spirit of God always calls us into fresh expressions of ministry. People are weary of stale, churchy clichÃ©s and explanations. They need the gospel translated through your life.
How can you share the gospel in fresh ways – through gardening, baking, sewing, serving by mowing yards or in a hundred other ways?
An idea came to my mind recently that I’d like to do in the near future: communion on the street.
What would it be like to invite people to experience the body and blood of Christ on a street corner? What would it say about the God who walks the streets to seek people out?
3. Mission must be ecologically balanced.
Mission should be concerned for the needs of the overall community, not just the saving of souls. Where is our outcry over gun violence? Where is our concern for the bullying of gay teens?
Just as local farmers consider the long-term use of soil, we need to be concerned with our long-term impact in a community.
How much energy does our church facility consume? Honoring our local context means approaching our community in humility and reverence and being mindful of the impact of our presence.
We inherited the soil in which we work, and one day others will work the soil. What are we leaving behind?
4. Mission must be pure.
Organic farmers use as few pesticides as possible or none at all. Our motives, approach and activities should all spring from pure hearts.
Missions can’t be a bait-and-switch to get people to come to a worship service. There must be a genuineness and love that reaches out without having control over the outcomes.
Mission work needs to be all of these things: local, fresh, ecologically balanced and pure. You can’t buy or pay for mission work like that.
You can only invest the time, attentiveness and love required to grow such a gift for our community.
But when you give your life to such an organic process, you’ll cultivate something even sweeter than a home-grown tomato: the love of Christ.
Brent McDougal is senior pastor of Cliff Temple Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. A version of this article first appeared on Cliff Temple’s blog and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @BrentMcDougal.
Brent McDougal is senior pastor of Cliff Temple Baptist Church in Dallas.