Monday, September 16, 2013

Zombies, Fires, and Pinecones.

As a brand new director of youth ministries at Summit Ridge Church, I suppose it is my responsibility to be hip and updated with all the trends including blogging and iPhones. I just got an iPhone last week, so it's time for a blog now. Hopefully, I'll stay on top of this blog as we all continue to grow in Christ, our roots growing deeper, and our branches reaching higher.

The Ridge Uth leaders and I have been wanting to start up a deeper discipleship study with some of the students who want to really grow in to mature people of Christ, and, ultimately, invest in others. This is, in essence the Great Commission. "Go throughout all nations, teaching and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." Notice that Christ isn't commanding the apostles to go and make converts everywhere they go: He's commanding them to go and make disciples. GO, TEACH, BAPTIZE. As followers of Christ, we are to be contagious like a virus or a fire

It reminds me of a good zombie flick: we are exposed, transformed, everything we once were is destroyed and dead, but then, in a supernatural turn of events, we are brought to life, our new existence is completely
defined by the very thing that transformed us. We were once dead, but now we are alive. 
Everyone we are in contact with is susceptible to being affected.

But maybe viruses, zombies, and forest fires are too negative to be used as metaphors of the gospel.

Trees! Everybody likes trees.

During my time serving at Prescott Pines Camp in Arizona, I had the opportunity to work around Ponderosa Pine Trees. In fact, Prescott National Forest is the largest congregation of Ponderosas in the whole world. These beautiful trees are tall and strong, home to the evil Ebert tree squirrel, and smell like vanilla. Really! You gotta try it.

During my seven years up there teaching and serving, I couldn't help but notice the awesome similarity between these gorgeous trees and us as followers of Christ.
Hear me out.

As a tree, it's entire life is defined by its ability to grow and reproduce, right? If it doesn't have a solid place to grow, it's chances of getting taller than six inches is slim. If it doesn't have access to the proper amount of water, it's squirrel munchies. If it can't get enough sunlight, it will never grow larger than your little finger. But. When the tree can grow deep roots, has access to water and food, and has sufficient sunlight, that minuscule sorry excuse for a seedling can erupt in to a hulking colossus of the forest, reaching towards the heavens.

We're the same way. As followers of Christ, we need a solid place to grow where are roots can dig deep and build a solid foundation of faith. This can be a church, an accountability group, a small group, a youth group, etc. This foundation of growth will be your home base, your base of operations, the place where you start as a tiny dried up pinecone and are brought to life when that seed takes root. Keep in mind, as a "tree" growth is only have of your purpose. The other half is making pinecones and planting seeds in all the ground around you in hopes that those seeds will take roots, but we'll get deeper in to that later.
Once you've taken root, you need water and sunlight.

That water is the word of God and the Holy Spirit. It fills you up and quenches your thirst. You have to become saturated with the word to grow. The word of God is exactly that: it is the words of our creator, the creator of the star,s and the ocean, and dolphins, and microorganisms, and trees, and atoms. He is speaking to us through His word. Theopneustos. If we want to know Him, we must know His heart. He put His heart in the Word, and it's published in basically any book store you stumble through. Heck, it's FREE in the App store. Really. Maybe downloading the bible onto your iPhone will make Apple seem less evil.

The sunlight could be represented perhaps by the good works that were designed for us before we could even wipe the drool off of our cute little chins. Those good works are not the cause of our initial salvation, but through them, God radiates through us. We grow when we follow Christ and when we serve. 

Once a tree hits a certain maturity, it begins producing fruit. The Ponderosa Pine Tree produces a prickly little sucker called a pinecone. The squirrels love to snatch these up and munch them to pieces. It's their main food, and they will fight each other for them, even creating pseudo-territories around healthy, fruitful trees, throwing sticks and things at passersby. But I digest...

When a tree hits a certain maturity, it begins creating pinecones. Inside these spiky balls of crunchiness, are a bunch of little seeds. Ideally, when the pinecone hits the ground, it will be crushed underfoot or maybe maimed by a squirrel in hopes that those seeds will be put in to the ground. Once those seeds are in the ground, they await to sprout in to a powerful arboreal marvel like the very tree that planted the seed.

As followers of Christ, we've all heard the term "planting seeds", and that is exactly the metaphor I am making. Seeds are planted in so many ways; evangelism, mission work, relationship building, stumbling across KLove, reading a book, a good work from a follower of Christ, a WWJD bracelet, etc. Once that seed is planted, it waits to be fed. Once exposed to the proper environment, it can grow in to a tree, and begin the process all over.

As a tree is growing, it does not grow alone. It is surrounded by other trees who pull water over to the growing sapling, give it shade, cultivate the ground, support and protect the growing tree. As Followers of Christ, we should do the same. Teach, mentor, protect, guide, and love the growing Christians. 

I hope this metaphor is coming out as clear to you as it is in my convoluted noodle of a brain.

I guess a final thought on the tree metaphor would be this: there are trees in the Prescott National Forest that are over 100 years old. Some of those trees took 20 years to sprout, and have been growing ever since. I guess my point is that growth is a long process. It's not a process that happens over a weekend at a camp or one night at a youth group. Growth is a life long process that is difficult, straining, dangerous, and exhausting. 

Maybe next time I'll go in to more depth on the zombie metaphor. That should get me in plenty of trouble.

Nate T B