God’s ‘Demonstration Plot’

Dr. Craig Van Gelder, Luther Seminary, offers a description of innovation in farming practices that has inspired members of the LIFT Task Force.

“Growing up on a farm in rural Iowa provided me with an object lesson for understanding the church’s being missionary by nature. Each county in the state employed an extension agent to work with farmers. These extension agents were usually university graduates with degrees in agriculture. As new farming technologies, seeds, and fertilizers became available, the extension agents introduced these to farmers. My dad, like many farmers, was often hesitant to accept the innovations. One of the methods extension agents used to gain acceptance of these innovations was demonstration plots.

A strip of land, usually along a major roadway, was selected as a demonstration plot, where a new farming method, seed, or fertilizer was used to raise a crop. It was not uncommon for farmers to remain skeptical throughout the summer as the crops grew. But there was always keen interest in the fall when the crop was harvested. Invariably, the innovation performed better than the crops in the surrounding fields. By the next year, many farmers, including my dad, would be using the innovation as if it had been their idea all along.

The church is God’s demonstration plot in the world. Its very existence demonstrates that his redemptive reign has already begun.”

Craig Van Gelder, The Essence of the Church: A Community Created by the Spirit. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000.  p. 99-100.


May God use our common efforts at plowing, planting, watering, nourishing, weeding, and cultivating for new growth and beautiful produce – maybe even a bumper crop.  ~ Rev. Dee Peders0n


One response to this post.

  1. That’s a very nice analogy and connects well with the “Let your light so shine…” instructions we share with all the Baptized.

    It also applies though within the Church. We desperately need more demonstration plots to help our congregations and members see that doing things differently can have a great value to our missional work together.

    One plot I think we urgently need to put seed in is a house church expression. This is Lutheran to the core (see bit.ly/1BrxOf) and could be done out of existing congregations in a “Home Front Missionary” model (see bit.ly/gtHL7t.)

    I’m sorry to report though that in the nearly four years I’ve been advocating for this and scanning the web for the keywords “Lutheran” and “House Church” together, I’ve found mostly a sad silence on the topic.

    It’s past time for us to plant this seed, and a host of other variants, to see what will grow best in the post-Christendom, Postmodern soil. Maybe we can learn from the Presbyterians in Scotland who have stepped up in this way with what I would call venture capital for their demonstrator plots (see bit.ly/VentCap).

    And if you’re looking for someone actually crazy enough to try and plant this stuff on his own back 40, give me a call.


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