It’s been said that peaches only grow where there’s peach blossoms. Well, that’s true for apologists as well. In a time when they’re needed, our apologetics ‘peaches’ don’t seem to “bloom where they’re planted”.
That’s a favorite adage of Greg Koukl, an apologist who has a radio show out of LA (not Louisiana). “Bloom where you’re planted”.
It’s advice that he often gives to those who ask about the best way they can help the Church using their newly found passion for apologetics.
It’s good advice, especially for small, rural churches. I’d like to share some thoughts about the relationship between peach blossoms and apologetics.
The peach is falling too far from the tree.
While looking for a church over the past few years it’s become evident to me that the Barna survey of several years ago now, is correct. Eighty percent of high school graduates are leaving the Church. I’ve definitely noticed an age gap in each church I’ve visited. From about the ages of 15-25 there is a definite void in the pews.
Furthermore, the more recent Pew Survey indicates a rise in the so-called “nones”, a rising generation of folks who claim no affiliation with religion or any particular belief about it. That’s becoming the new cultural norm. One only needs to walk down any small town street in America, even in the South, and engage in a spiritual conversation or two to find a “none”. There’s a quickly widening gap in the cultural understanding of religion and even religious freedom.
So, there is obviously a definite disengagement with the culture and the Church, but I suppose all you have to do is watch the news to understand that.
I think the issue is more complicated than the statistics might indicate though.
A box of peaches left in the box will rot.
In my experience which is mostly rural and completely Southern, most churches are not doing a good job grounding their young folks in theology and most pay no attention at all to apologetics. That’s a factor for sure. On the other hand, there are some doing a pretty fair job at giving their young folks some roots in “what they believe” by catechizing their children and so on. Though apologetics may not be on their radar, they aren’t afraid of answering questions or wading in some deep water every now and then.
In both cases I’ve noticed a complete lack of putting shoes on the feet of their young folk’s beliefs though. Very little effort is given to engage young people with the culture. Mission, evangelism, and apologetics is almost always done one on one, and a lack of engagement with unbelievers gives young people the impression that this church thing has little to do with how I live my life or the Gospel’s effect on the culture. High schoolers need to be engaged with people they don’t know to put shoes on what they believe. This instills in them a sense of service, gives them an opportunity to share the Gospel, and forces them to answer real questions from real people.
This kind of cultural engagement is integral to the spiritual growth of young Christians and the lack of it shelves Christian belief for many, removing it from reality and placing in the fiction section of their mind. They just don’t see any significant value of a faith that does nothing to redeem the culture in which they are already so often engaged and care so much about.
It doesn’t seem to be much different for the rest of the Church either.
Gotta get them peaches to market!
One thing that cultural engagement does when practiced by a local church in their own community is produce an investment in local people. That may be the weakest link in the Church today.
Most churches send missionaries to foreign lands to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Lots of churches give to local missions like soup kitchens, the Haven of Rest, or others that help the needy.
Almost all churches participate in local events like parades, festivals, or sporting events.
But, very few churches see their backyard or town as a mission field though. Even fewer churches participate in local events or missions to the needy for the express purpose of engaging their local culture in the cause of Christ, sharing the Gospel, answering questions, creating relationships with their community with roots that are deeper than building a float or a sticker on the door of a soup kitchen.
Churches don’t seem to be blooming where they are planted.
Locally ‘grown’ apologetics should change the aroma of the culture from the church outward!Christianity on the other hand, is a grass-roots effort. It’s not usually a top-down approach that changes culture, so it’s not the Kingdom first plan that’s going to work. Christianity changes cultures by Christians telling individuals about Jesus’ person and work and defending that hope to those who disagree. Once the Gospel of the Kingdom takes hold of the people who are the culture, then and only then will the culture begin to resemble the Kingdom.
Orchards can’t “go” that’s why peaches grow.
The local church is the means for cultural change.
Missions (engaging a culture with the Gospel) need to always have an interest in foreign lands, but in my opinion, most of the focus should begin at the door step of the local church.
The same is true for discipleship of young people. Engagement of their culture with the Gospel, especially when it’s done locally, is an investment they’re less likely to shrug off as irrelevant. Relationships with unbelievers with whom they have a heart interest in sharing Christ and defending his truth are more difficult to leave behind than a 30-minute Bible story or a few songs and a sermon.
This kind of local engagement is blooming where you’re planted and rural local churches are in desperate need of it. Many are on the verge of dying. Some are on their way. Almost all of them are lacking focus when it comes to the future.
Some pastors are calling for Christians to move to the city and stay in the city, I would like to respectfully say, don’t forget about your roots. Bloom where you’re planted.
If you’re in a small, rural church that seems disengaged, if you’re not sure about the mission of your church, if you’re thinking about moving, if you have a gift but are unsure where to use it, stay. Small, rural churches need you too. You may be the peach your church has been looking for for so long.
The thing about moving to the city, the problem with leaving your home church, is peaches only grow in certain places. I live in the South and that’s where peaches grow. We need them down here, bad.
You may be an apple or a grape. You may bloom in the Midwest or the Northwest or another part of the world. Consider your roots! If you haven’t been called to another place, bloom where you’re planted. The entire American culture is not shaped in Manhattan. In fact, true American culture has little to do with it and this imposition of metro-based cultural shaping has caused an anger in the rest of America that is being channeled in this year’s elections.
The metropolitan centers of American need churches and apologists. There is nothing about that that takes away from the same need in rural American churches.
Where are you growing? If it’s in the city, evangelize, apologize, engage in the city. If it’s in a small, rural church, bloom in the country.
Peaches only grow where peach trees blossom. Maybe God put ‘em there for a reason.