Again Jesus said, “What shall we say the Realm of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” - Mark 4:30-32 (NIV)
For as long as I’ve been active in the church, people have been telling me it’s dying. With charts and graphs and data, I have been told many times that the church used to be the right size and now it is too small.
But that’s not what I see. I view churches like mustard seeds – looking to all the world like something too small to matter but with room enough for so many in their shade.
Consider churches with great big buildings – far bigger than are needed for the members. And almost to a one, those churches are space-sharing with immigrant congregations, or they are running food-pantries that keep hundreds of families fed, or they are holding 12-step groups by the dozen, or they are serving as Sanctuary Churches to stand up against heartless laws.
What would the generations who built these great edifices think of all this? They built that education wing for Sunday School. What would they think of it being used to host tutoring for neighborhood children? They built that gym so the youth group could play basketball. What would they think of it being used as emergency shelter?
I think they would say, “My God, if we knew the building was going to be used for all this, we would have built it twice as big.”
God, help your church be like mustard seeds.
John Edgerton is Lead Pastor at First United Church of Oak Park, Illinois.