A Garden or a Greenhouse

Several months ago (perhaps even a year or so), I was inspired with the contrasting thought about whether a church’s focus should be on being similar to a garden or a greenhouse. I remembered this idea recently, and I thought I would share it here with you in this week’s newsletter.

For purposes of this discussion, we can define a “greenhouse” as a controlled environment where seeds can have the best start when growing, and where individuals come to purchase ‘baby’ plants to place in their “garden” to enjoy.

As a Christian, I see the need for time in both environments, but too often, I think we get confused on which role we as a church should play. Many times baptism, church membership, and/or involvement in some type of group is seen as having completed the church process, and that squarely places church in a garden role.

For example, someone visits a church for the first time, enjoys themselves, and decides to join. (They leaving the greenhouse of the world and are planted in the garden.) Then they grow and mature their understanding as they follow through all the different ways of being involved. (They develop into adult plants.) Then, after completing the path of involvement, they complete their journey, winter comes, and they might die or leave because many plants don’t mix well with frost. (We conclude that gardens aren’t suited for plants wanting to survive through the cold winter months.) Gardens are necessary for some stages of personal growth, but Gardens are the last step plants travel to on their path of life.

On the other hand, church as a greenhouse takes on a completely different mentality. Instead of ending your journey of growth in church, you begin your journey of spiritual growth in church. In a safe environment where growth is encouraged, we are able to begin to break through the soil and start our brand new lives. There are systems in place for each stage of our growth as ‘baby’ believers and at each stage of growth, we have people who are there to help us develop further.

However, church as a greenhouse has one big distinction. Plants in a greenhouse are meant to end in an environment that is not the greenhouse. The goal of a greenhouse is to help the plants grow and be strong enough to survive outside of the greenhouse. A plant that doesn’t leave the greenhouse at some point, will never grow past a certain size.

Viewing church as a greenhouse is a much healthier perspective. As a greenhouse, church is able to help us course correct, grow, and stay connected to a network of people who want the best for us spiritually while we live in the garden of the world. As a greenhouse, church attendance becomes a supporting role in life. If we are sick from something in the world, the church has the answer and the cure. If we are tired of facing the elements, the church is ready to give us a place where we can rest and recharge. If we are hurting, the church offers healing.

As you might imagine, I tend to like the idea of church being more of a greenhouse than a garden. A ‘greenhouse’ church becomes a supporting element for our crazy hectic ‘life-in-a-garden’ lives.

However, what do you think? Do you think church is more like a greenhouse, or a garden?