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Five keys to having a discipleship "greenhouse"

I read a quote this morning from Larry Osborne's book Sticky Church that said, "Ultimately all we can do is provide an environment conducive to deeper spiritual relationships among group members."  He was speaking in the work of small groups how vital it is to have authenticity and accountability.  A group that has those two characteristics is a part of an environment that is conducive to spiritual growth.

The one thing that I could think of when I read that quote as well was that of a greenhouse.  I remember being in FFA at Westview High School at Martin and one of the neat things that we had was a greenhouse.  We would grow ferns out of it and it amazed me how the one thing that a greenhouse screams at you is consistency.  This seems to be a key to their success, in that the environment is consistent enough that growth can occur in any context, no matter what the circumstances or weather may be outside.  It's also easy to tell when inside a greenhouse if there is something wrong on the inside, as the environment has changed and plants do not grow as effectively or consistent as before.

I take this simple understanding of greenhouses and wonder how well they are applied to the church today.  Our churches are to be places that are conducive to growth, not numerical growth per se, but rather more towards spiritual health.  They are environments that are not focused on the circumstances that surround the church, as Christ did not call for our growth to be determined by external circumstances.  Instead we see in the Bible how we learn to grow in the midst of the circumstances.  Then we are so focused on effective and consistent growth that if something is not working we can tell easily.

So how can you tell if your church is a discipleship "greenhouse"?

Here are four keys:

1. Reproduction of disciples:  A church that acts as a greenhouse is not just producing disciples, but rather they are finding ways to multiply them.  As I read an email from another Minister of Education state about their outreach efforts, they wanted to have a "culture of invitation."  People are invited to see that being a disciple is not the end of the journey with Christ but rather the beginning and it goes beyond themselves and should be an outflow to others.  To put this in greenhouse terms, there isn't just one plant being grown in the greenhouse, but rather plants are grown to make fruit that bears seeds to make more plants on a consistent basis.

2. Reproduction of leaders.  A church that acts as a greenhouse is going to be intentional about reproducing leaders.  There are people that God has gifted to step up and be leaders in the church and when they understand their responsibility and calling they see the work that stands before them.  They also see though how a part of their calling is to make other leaders like themselves.  Leaders don't just lead for today, they lead for generation of tomorrows to be successful.

3. The growth seems never-ending.  How often have we waited in the church to see a "period" of growth to occur when we know that the nickels and noses are generally there and we seek to capitalize on just those few weeks.  A church that acts as a greenhouse doesn't really know what slumps are as they are so focused on seeking to grow no matter what the season may be, that their attention is focused on this.  Does this mean that they don't have periods when numbers are down?  Yes they will, but their growth is so healthy that its not about the numbers is about the health.  The natural progression that comes then seems to be numerical growth.

4. The Gardener is free to work at anytime.  A church that acts as a greenhouse understands this simple yet often overlooked truth, The Gardener is truly in charge.  I am not talking of the pastor, deacons, etc.  I am speaking of our true Gardener that makes things to truly grow and that is God our Father.  When we act as a greenhouse, the Holy Spirit is truly alive and working in all the plants. He is able to transplant, plant, prune, water, work the soil, and so on.  This makes the work of the church to simply surrender to the Gardener's desires for when and how the church is to grow.  What a great assurance that we have a Gardener that is looking out for each one of us and how we are to grow.  When we understand that truth collectively, there is more planting and seeding that will happen in the kingdom (greenhouse) of God.

Have a great week as we reflect on these simple truths about God's work in our lives and discipleship plans!

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