In a conversation I had recently, a mission-minded member expressed frustration that we can’t fill every mission program we want to offer. We can’t seem to support the mission opportunities that have been done for years and add new ones. He talked of his sadness in cutting some of these programs.
I heard his frustration, and I’ve seen this situation happen before in many areas of the church. I know Jeff has, too. But let me reframe it.
What if, instead of thinking about cutting programs, we think of them lying fallow. According to Miriam-Webster, fallow is defined as cultivated land that is allowed to lie idle during the growing season.
You see, the hard work of preparing the soil is done. The soil itself has had good years of bountiful harvest, but it needs time to just be soil. It needs time to restore nutrients, to soak in the sun and the rain, to compost old bits of plants left behind. It needs a time of rest.
Farmers will leave one plot fallow for a season or two, and then return to it. Often, a new crop is planted in that spot. A crop that uses different nutrients from the soil. A healthy new crop can flourish where previously there was barrenness.
Sure, there are always going to be programs, events, and projects that work for a while and then for some reason they don’t. These programs/events/projects may be near and dear to our hearts. But fallow time can also be holy time.
Some questions to ponder:
- Is there something in the church that seems to take more time to get volunteers than it does to do the event? Perhaps it’s time to think of letting that program rest.
- Is there something in your own life that needs this time of rest?
- What would our churches and our lives look like if we took on fallow time as a spiritual practice, instead of trying to plant in soil that cannot sustain?
I think if we allow for fallow time the areas of abundance will flourish even more. I think there will be space for God to work in the unplanted places—restoring and rejuvenating dry ground. I think when that fallow place is replanted, perhaps with a different program or project, the new life that springs forth will bear wonderful fruit.
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
– Isaiah 43:18-19