Be a Farmer

What should he do?

One of my favorite books tells the story of Grover, the blue Sesame Street character. He’s on a farm and doesn’t know what his role should be. Should he cluck and peck the ground like the chickens? Should he roll in the mud like the pigs? Each animal tells him that they have their role in the joint covered. On the final page of this plot boiler, Grover discovers that he is supposed to be a farmer. 


There was a day when pastors were told to be evangelists. They spent their week writing hell-fire and damnation sermons and going about town, dressed in black. What this role lacked in good-humor, it made up for in clarity. 


In the middle of the last century, a movement arose — advocated by Henry Emerson Fosdick and Norman Vincent Peal — that saw the pastor’s role as public counselor. Denominations incorporated this standard by speaking of their clergy as therapeutic professionals.


About the same time, a movement arose that spoke of the local church pastor as a business administrator. Seminaries scrambled to add practical courses in parish management. This concept was further refined by the church growth movement of the 1970s. They spoke of the pastor as an entrepreneur, working to increase the market share of a particular outstanding church in his/her community. 


Bold personalities, such as, Rick Warren, Adam Hamilton, Joel Osteen, and Joyce Meyers, were the darlings of this high concept. Many pastors, like myself, said, “I think they’ve got that role covered in my community.” 


My mentor in ministry, Dick Arnold, once said, “The church is like a greenhouse. Your role is to help each plant grow and become healthy.” Later, when I was struggling to survive my first parish I read about Grover on the farm to my children. Perhaps, the role of the pastor is to be the local farmer.


Jesus says this much in Mark 4:26-34  This passage pivotal for the healthy congregations movement,and thinkers such as Christian Schwartz (Church Smart - Natural Church Development). A farmer gets up everyday and looks at the fields — his little agricultural system, and tries to do what he can do that day to make the place more fruitful. He has concern for the health of his plants (which are like a pastor’s members). He has an even bigger concern, though, for the over all mission of his farm. With humility, the farmer always sees him or herself in partnership with God. 


Be a farmer. See Holy Process

additional author: 
Christian Schwartz