Balancing Acts – Gardening: A Model for Doing Church

tom b

Editor’s Note: Tom Beutel, a regular contributor to PeaceSigns, is Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Balancing Acts is a monthly feature of PeaceSigns and appears the second week of each month.

by Tom Beutel

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  I Corinthians 3:6 (NRSV)

The Israel of Jesus’ time was primarily an agricultural one. Both Jesus and the apostle Paul used agricultural examples in their their teachings. In the Parable of the Sower, recounted in Matthew 13:1-9, Jesus presents the ways in which the message of the gospel is received as it is spread throughout the world at large using the imagery of a farmer scattering seed. In I Corinthians 3, Paul uses an agricultural context to make the point that each worker in the kingdom of God has a specific role, and that, in the end, it is God who is responsible for belief, growth, and success.

Today’s world is not primarily agricultural, at least not in western nations. In the United States less than 1% of the population claims farming as its occupation ( Despite this many people garden – in suburbs, in the country, and even in the city. Gardens may be an acre or more in size or just a few square feet; they may produce food for canning and freezing, for fresh eating, or for sale at farmers’ markets. Gardens supply flowers for the kitchen table and provide peaceful retreats. Community gardening typically provides food for food pantries and social space for gardeners. The majority of US households garden (

So, even today in our post-agricultural society, agricultural analogies – especially those based on gardening – may resonate with people.


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