Friday, July 30, 2021

A Lesson from Farming

Here are some of the things we've had to learn (some of them, the hard way) since we started farming in Virginia:
  • How to fence and cross fence a 123-acre farm.
  • How to raise sheep, goats, donkeys, horses, cattle, and chickens.
  • How to slaughter and butcher our own chicken, goats, and cattle for meat. 
  • How to raise and can our own vegetables. 
  • How to bottle feed orphaned goats.
  • How to cut, rake, and bale hay.
  • How to stack square bales in the barn.
  • How to build a gambrel barn.
  • How to de-worm the animals.
  • How to rotate pastures.
  • How to cut firewood.

Farming teaches you many lessons, and many of those lessons are spiritual in nature. Today one of my chores was to clean out the water troughs. 

I thought of that old saying, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." This reminded me of something I read today in the book Church Transfusion by Cole and Helfer. I found it in chapter 6, "Detoxifying from Dependence." This chapter includes such headings as "Stop Being the Bible Answer Man" and "Learn to Become a Disposable Pastor." Here's the quote I wanted to share with you. 

How often have we heard people say they were leaving a church because they just weren't getting fed there? For far too long we have lived with this dysfunctional codependent relationship that expects the pastor to feed us. Since when does a shepherd feed his sheep? Sheep feed themselves! A good shepherd leads his flock to green pastures and still waters, but he doesn't open the sheep's mouth and stick a handful of grass in it.

John Stott, in the chapter on "Preaching" in his outstanding book The Living Church, agrees:

But how do shepherds feed their sheep? The answer is that they don't! To be sure, if a newborn lamb is sick, the shepherd will doubtless take it up in his arms and bottle-feed it. But normally shepherds do not feed their sheep; they lead them to good, green pasture where the sheep feed themselves. 

He adds:

Thus all preaching should lead people to the Scriptures and encourage them to browse there for themselves.

Here's a picture of one of our many pastures. 

As you can see, this one has goats in it. As a faithful goatherd, it's not my job to feed these beautiful animals. It's my job to see that they have a constant supply of proper nutrition and hydration -- in this case, a healthy pasture and a rain-fed pond. Even if you're not a farmer, surely this makes sense to you. And if you ARE a farmer, then you know it is true both intuitively and by experience. That's the same message Paul was conveying to the believers in Ephesus when he told shepherd-teachers to "prepare God's people for works of service" (Eph. 4:11-12) -- not to do all the ministry but to equip believers to become mature servants in Christ. And his message is the same today. 

Farming tells a story, people! Are we listening?