Most of us, at one time or another, tire of where we are and yearn for somewhere easier, more productive, or more pleasant. There is nothing unusual in this. When faced with such a yearning, some buckle down or shake it off and remain where they are. Others move on to what they suppose are greener pastures. Whether the greener pasture is a job, city, relationship, or church, the desire for something better and the need to make a decision remain.
What do we mean by “greener pastures” and what, if any, are our responsibilities in connection with them?
When faced with a yearning for greener pastures, the temptation is to follow our emotions. Desire for adequate resources, adequate social space, the encouraging and equipping our call, good fit with our worldview, and an accurate assessment of our personal worth should not be ignored or suppressed.
The emotions associated with these desires are an important signal that something in life needs tending, but the emotions themselves are inadequate for deciding how to respond. When we move on to greener pastures, we leave behind relationships and responsibilities. Therefore, we must give thoughtful consideration before leaving for greener pastures.
When the greener pasture is a church
Like other communities build on committed relationships, church can and should be a difficult place to leave. We must go beyond emotions and consider why we desire to leave, what we are leaving, and where we are going.
Without thoughtful consideration, we may leave this church and go to that church, only to discover that church does not meet our needs either. Worse, that church may meet our felt needs, but not our deep needs–and we may not realize it.
Before we go hunting greener pastures, let us think through what we ought to mean by that.
- Greener pastures provide resources, corresponding to and expressive of biblical content that flows from the faith community rather than from a select group. These resources serve God’s ultimate purposes.
- Persons in greener pastures share location-specific resources that honor, but are not bound to, community legacy; improvement is welcome and expected.
- Persons in greener pastures develop the skills and knowledge to form biblically and culturally appropriate resources, built on proper theology, focused on relationship with Christ, and naturally sourced in the community.
Adequate Social Space
- Greener pastures are a social space in which participants have explicit connection to Christ and work together to become conformed to his image as persons and as community.
- Persons in greener pastures relate in a variety of ways, from intimate through public, freely associating according to but not bound by affinity and appropriately submitting to one another’s care.
- Persons in greener pastures develop the skills and knowledge to form an ecclesial space in which individual and corporate identity in Christ is understood, Spirit-empowered behaviors are practiced, and a natural web of relationships develops.
Encourage and Equip My Calling
- Greener pastures encourage and equip individual and communal calls that recognize Christ as source and end, and are lived out on a Kingdom trajectory for the sake of the Body.
- Persons in greener pastures live out their personal calls in community, synergistically creating new expressions of vocation by drawing on historical norms, current culture, and community feedback.
- Persons in greener pastures develop the skills and knowledge needed to form a sense of individual and corporate calling by learning to identify and develop God-given abilities that are centered in Christ, bounded by his character, and nurtured by feedback and knowledge from the community.
Fit My Worldview
- Greener pastures foster personal worldviews, evaluated by a biblical rubric through mutual correction toward God’s ultimate purpose.
- Persons in greener pastures intentionalize their own worldviews, becoming others-oriented, presenting their filters and givens and submitting them to correction.
- Persons in greener pastures develop the skills and knowledge to form personal worldviews increasingly conformed to biblical norms through transformed hearts and communal care.
Accurate Assessment of My Worth
- Greener pastures redefine worth according to identity in Christ within the faith community, and according to Kingdom criteria.
- Persons in greener pastures view others beyond first impressions, presenting their own prejudices and expectations for community correction.
- Persons in greener pastures develop the skills and knowledge to form biblical ways of understanding others and communal transformational practices that provide an increasing amount of character evidence.
No particular church on earth will meet all these criteria perfectly, for on earth we are a mixed bag–both as persons and as community. We meet these criteria more or less. Each must decide how much less it can be before moving on to greener pastures.
But there is another question.
We must also ask, “Will I work with other believers to plant greener pastures?” If the answer to that question is, “No,” you need to evaluate whether or not you are the real problem. If you are the problem, you will take you with you and the same issues will arise.
Before moving on to greener pastures, consider:
- What do I mean by greener pastures?
- Is my current church planting greener pastures?
- Am I, as far as I am able, working to plant greener pastures?