Summer 2009, a good friend struggled with a critical issue: “If [one’s] needs are inadequately met, one may feel the emotional pull to seek out “greener pastures,” or a body of believers that will better meet their needs.”
He laid out four options:
- Remain where I am and do nothing different, slightly dissatisfied but not disgruntled
- Leave TFB completely and find a new body with which to worship
- Remain in some capacities at TFB, but find something like a para-church organization to be part of
- Remain at TFB and commit to either building a strong population of 20-somethings at TFB or expanding Sanctify! beyond TFB
In my related post, What should we mean by “greener pastures”? I suggested five criteria by which to evaluate greener pastures.
- Adequate Resources
- Adequate Social Space
- Encourage and Equip My Calling
- Fit My Worldview
- Accurate Assessment of My Worth
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.
What follows is a rewrite and rethink of that initial post, re-focusing on our responsibility to plant greener pastures.
First, a shocking claim: It is okay to tire of where we are and yearn for somewhere easier, more productive, or more pleasant. We all recognize that life-as-it-is does not match life-as-it-should be. Try as we might to convince ourselves otherwise, our hearts know the truth: we ought to yearn for somewhere better than here.
We should yearn for specific things.
We should yearn for life that is easy and natural.
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 who plant greener pastures share location-specific resources that honor, but are not bound to, community legacy; improvement is welcome and expected. They 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.
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 who plant 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. They 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.
Greener pastures foster personal worldviews, evaluated by a biblical rubric through mutual correction toward God’s ultimate purpose. Persons who plant greener pastures intentionalize their own worldviews, becoming others-oriented, presenting their filters and givens and submitting them to correction. They develop the skills and knowledge to form personal worldviews increasingly conformed to biblical norms through transformed hearts and communal care.
We should yearn for life that is filled with useful work.
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 who plant 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. They 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.
Greener pastures redefine worth according to identity in Christ within the faith community, and according to Kingdom criteria. Persons who plant greener pastures view others beyond first impressions, presenting their own prejudices and expectations for community correction. They develop the skills and knowledge to form biblical ways of understanding others and communal transformational practices that provide an increasing amount of character evidence.