I grew up in a small town in Oregon called Silverton. I don’t know if it is totally accurate to refer to Silverton as a “farming community,” but the town is certainly surrounded by farms. No matter what direction you drive to leave Silverton, you will pass fields growing crops. From wheat to corn to hops to tulips to berries to grass, I grew up driving by fields replete with agricultural proliferation.
If there is one thing you get used to when you grow up around agricultural fields, it is change. You drive by a field one day and it is filled with dirt, not long after a new crop is emerging, and soon after that the crop is being harvested. Farmers don’t want their fields staying the same. They want to plow, plant, grow, prune, and harvest their crops. That is the process that produces life. Life is always marked by growth and change.
The same principles apply to the church. There are a number of metaphors used in the New Testament to describe the people who make up the church; 1) a family, 2) a building or structure, 3) a holy temple, and 4) “God’s field.”
1 Corinthians 3:9
“For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”
The Greek word for “field” that Paul employs in this text is the word georgeon. A leading lexicon defines this word as “An area of land used for cultivation.”
As God’s field the church is a place used for the cultivation of life. This means, among other things:
- God is growing things within us.
- There is plowing, planting, watering, and pruning necessary.
- Things constantly change within us.
- Without proper and regular cultivation (plowing, planting, watering, pruning) we become useless.
- The church is a place of agriculture, not archeology.
This last point is not in the text, rather it’s an illustration that comes to mind when I think about the reality of the church as a field. If we’re really honest in our self-assessment, I think we can be candid about the fact that many churches don’t exemplify this identity as places of agriculture. Instead, we tend to be places of archeology. There is such a huge difference between an agricultural field and an archeological dig site.
I’m not a farmer or an archeologist, but even in my limited knowledge of these two spheres I think the differences are obvious.
Agriculture vs. Archeology
Agriculture defined: The art, science, and occupation associated with cultivating land and raising crops.
Archeology defined: The study of prehistoric peoples and their cultures.
|The place: A field
|The place: A dig site
|You live in the present and plan for the future.
|You live in the past.
|Everything is focused on the harvest (Luke 10:2).
|Everything is focused on what happened before.
|After the harvest, you work hard to re-plant for future harvests.||After discovery, you think about what life may have been like when what you discovered was alive.
|Your faith is tested, you are dependent on God to bring rain and give increase.
|Your faith is not tested, not much is at stake, because you’re not producing something new or alive.
|The ground is constantly pulverized, so that new life can be brought forth.||You don’t pulverize the ground so that it can produce life (through planting), you stabilize the ground so that nothing from the past is disturbed.
|There is forward motion and constant change.
|You are looking to memorialize days gone by.|
|It is hard work, but it is all focused toward producing life and life-giving sustenance.||It is hard work, but it is focused on discovery and preservation of the past.|
The church is God’s field, not our dig site. We don’t need to demonize the past, but we better not memorialize it to the degree that we begin worshipping it as an idol. The church is to be a place of change, transition, growth, and transformation. Let us embrace it as such to the glory of God.