Trees are everywhere. Seriously, if you go outside you will see trees. If you go to a park you will see hundreds, if not thousands of trees. If you are like me, you probably don’t spend a whole lot of time entrenched in deep thought about trees. You and I probably take them for granted just a little. But, if we do take some time to really think about what a tree is and what it does, we might come to a whole new appreciation for them.
So, let’s think about trees. Not just what they look like, but what they do and why they exist. And, to take it further; why do trees so accurately provide a metaphor for what the Church is supposed to be? A few weeks ago now, Brett talked about a few concepts related to the Church as a tree. I want to focus on just a few areas that provide some insight on how trees can make us a more whole and complete church community. I have seen two ways that the Church is like a tree.
It’s a seed, not a switch
Trees don’t tend to grow overnight. It’s actually quite the opposite. Every tree, even the biggest ones started as a comparatively tiny seed. It took time, water, sun, and nutrients to get a start. And then, it had to somehow stay alive through storms, times of drought, disease, and human intervention. Fully grown trees are strong and not easily brought down. The one thing you really can’t do to the process of tree growth is force it. You can help to make it healthier and stronger with fertilizer and ensuring it gets the proper amount of sun, water, and nutrients. But, you can’t physically make it grow. You can’t stretch the branches and make it longer.
That’s how we are here at Element. We take our time. We don’t attempt to artificially grow. It’s not a switch we can flip to get the instant result we want. Instead, it’s a (sometimes long) process that we have to wait on. If we force it and try to stretch the branches, we just end up snapping them and having to wait all over again. And, this is what I love most about Element. We are willing to wait and not force our way to whatever we perceive as growth. We sit and wait in the shade of our tree as we pull others in under the protection against the sweltering sun.
2. Trees and the church provide something
All trees have something that they provide. Some bear fruit or vegetables, but all healthy trees provide oxygen to breath and shade from the sun. In essence, we can breathe because trees exist. Without them, we would only have carbon dioxide to breathe and would subsequently not exist at all. They also provide shade and protection. Here in Florida, it doesn’t get much better than finding a tree to sit under when you’re outside in the middle of summer or winter. It’s so nice to sit in the shade of an old oak tree and cool off for a few minutes on a hot day.
What if we could say the same about the Church? What if we could say that Church was a breath of fresh air and place to rest and cool off when the heat of life is scorching us? That’s what I think we are when we are who we are called to be. We, the Church can be that for people who are tired and weary from wandering in the sun. We can provide fresh and clean air to heal. We can take in the unbreathable air that surrounds us and turn it into a refreshing atmosphere that brings life. We can and we get to do that for the people around us. We get to say yes to sharing and not taking.
This week, as we go about our work, responsibilities, and chores, let us think about how we can be a part of the process of growth. This isn’t a forced or artificial growth, but real growth that is strong a rooted. And, as we become rooted and flourish, let’s remember that we are there to provide a fresh and clean breath of air and place to rest in the shade for weary travelers.
This post was inspired by a message spoken at Element Church that can be found here.