Farmers and gardeners know that this is a critically important time of year. Through much faithful work and hard labor, fruits and vegetables come to maturity, preparing for a bountiful harvest. These things cannot happen by accident. It is only through careful tending and commitment that the fruit will come. The time of cultivation and nurture requires at the very least four crucial aspects: weeding, culling, hoeing, and feeding.
One of God’s jokes is that weeds seem to thrive much better than good produce. Keeping weeds from choking out good fruit is a constant battle, but it is essential or the harvest will be ruined. Getting rid of that which robs the fruit of valuable nutrients and resources is vital.
Too much fruit growing too close will mean that the resulting produce will be small and less tasty. There must be adequate room to grow for the abundant harvest to come. Trying to grow too much is often as damaging as growing too little.
Keeping the soil aerated and soft is important so that water and nutrients can seep deep to the roots to continuously feed the fruit. This is sometimes tedious and not much fun, but it pays off in the end. Sometimes it feels like an endless task.
Last, it is important to make sure plants are fertilized, fed and watered adequately. Through this careful and mindful nurture, wonderful yields will be cultivated.
This is an analogy that works well with the ministries of our local churches. As we Imagine Wisconsin Anew, we envision a Conference of vital, vibrant, juicy, fruitful congregations making disciples and transforming the world! This can only happen through careful cultivation and nurture. When we do this, God is good to multiply our efforts, as is taught in Matthew 13 – what falls on good soil produces 30, 60 and 100-fold.
We have a special challenge for producing fruit in our Conference: apportionments. Our harvest has been growing smaller in recent years, so we have less fruit with which to feed a hungry world – both physically and spiritually. Our giving processes need cultivation and nurture. We need to “weed out” unnecessary programs and services that do not equip disciples to transform the world. We need to “cull out” programs that no longer produce much fruit, letting go of old ways, and freeing up resources to be used in new ways. We need to hoe the soil of our congregational environment to keep it fresh and ready to receive new ideas and new energy, and to keep it from hardening and drying out. We need to continue to feed our congregations with the stories of a world transformed – how our local, Conference, denominational and global ministries change lives and give hope. We need to continuously invite people into the fruit-producing ministries supported by our connectional giving.
Every church should have received at Annual Conference an Apportionment Exploration Guide. This resource is ideal for using at meetings for devotional time, for a small group study or Sunday school class, or as a personal devotional guide. Information can be taken from it for bulletin inserts and newsletter articles. It is available on-line so it can be linked to your church’s website. It is just one of many helpful resources you can use to help cultivate and nurture a generosity as we celebrate together the abundance God supplies.
Grace and Peace,
Hee-Soo Jung, PhD
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).