We have seen the cost of monoculture in agriculture settings and the cost to the food system. We have seen that the movement of God in creation is division and separation (that is to say that God, in creation, separates light from dark, water below from water above [sky], fish and birds, etc.). And we have seen the link between holiness and this movement of God to control chaos through diversity.
Now, we have to imagine the additional problems of monoculture and factory farming and the interesting allusion to the way we see church moving. The imagery is as powerful as anything could be. You see the rows of corn, chickens, cattle, pigs and in the same way, you can clearly see the rows of Baptists, Pentecostals, Nazarenes, and Methodists.
One of the things that has brought us to this point, both in farm factories and church factories is the idea of “best practices.” For years, both in my work in corporate settings as well as church settings, the phrase “best practices” has been tossed around as though it were the perfect Roundup solution to the weed ridden soil into which the Gospel is cast. What are the best practices to pastoring or leading a church to reach that goal of 1,000 members? What are the best practices for reaching that goal of multiple services, satellite campuses, bigger and better ministries, manufactured facilities, coffee shops, bookstores, cafes, etc.? What are the best practices to producing 10,000 or 30,000 head of cattle or pork? What are the best practices that result in chicken farms that deliver 200,000 chickens to Tyson or Monsanto?
The connection of factory farms and factory churches is undeniable and it lies in the seemingly sexy idea of best practices. The problem with best practices is that best practices ignore the individual. Who is the individual? St. Photini (the Samaritan woman) met Jesus at the well. She was no factory farmed chicken or cattle. There was nothing about Photini that best practices could have convinced to follow Jesus. Rather, Jesus does something different. Jesus asks for a drink.
Best practices would throw ten or fifteen photinis into the factory floor, use soft coercive techniques to “reach” her, place her in a row of pews or chairs with other christians who have “been through what she’s been through” to help her begin her journey with Jesus. Best practices result in the throwing out of the injured and deformed, as they are not the desired product of the church.
Jesus asked for a drink. Surely this does not conform with the best practices of outreach and the missional church. Jesus said, ‘but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’
I know a very qualified and successful well driller, a whole family of them, in fact, and I can tell you that what Jesus was offering was not so-called best practices. It’s time for us as the Body of Christ to stop supposing that we have “best practices” in what we do and start relying upon the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. When we stop relying on factory church production, perhaps we can build the relationships we need to build to give hope to a world that needs the love, grace, and sustainable holiness of Jesus Christ.