By Jeremy Linneman
Jeremy Linneman is lead pastor of Trinity Community Church, a church he planted in Columbia, Missouri. Prior to planting Trinity, he was a staff pastor of Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky, for seven years. He is author of Life-Giving Groups: “How-To” Grow Healthy, Multiplying Community Groups (Sojourn Network, 2017). Jeremy and his wife, Jessie, have three sons and spend most of their free time outdoors.
Earlier this year, my wife and I visited our favorite local bookstore downtown. (This was back when local bookstores were open to walk-in browsers!) As Jessie browsed the new novels, I gravitated toward non-fiction, and one book caught my attention: Good Soil: Manure, Compost and Nourishment for Your Garden. It’s the most gorgeous book about manure I’ve ever seen. And it really is about manure—more than 250 pages on its chemistry, fertilization, and use in gardening. The point of the book: Plants need nutrients to grow, flourish, and bear fruit, and whether we like it or not, manure is an essential source of these nutrients. What’s unlovely, even unwanted, is the secret to good soil, healthy plants, and tasty food.
The Scriptures are full of references to gardening, farming, and the agricultural life. Psalm One envisions the godly person as a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. When our roots grow deep into good soil near hidden streams of life-giving water, we have no fear of drought or storm, and our fruit will endure.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus turns our attention toward the flowers—look how they grow without hard labor or busy spinning. Worry not: God clothes them, and if he clothes the flowers in unparalleled majesty, how much more will our needs be met with abundant provision.
On the night before his death, Jesus invited his followers to abide in him—he is the true vine, our Father is the gardener, and we are the branches. The invitation to abide is to remain in the vital union between vine (Christ) and branch (us). Apart from the vine, we are like a flower pulled out of ground and lying on the concrete—as good as dead. But in him, in the union described with words like “love” and “joy,” we remain grounded, nourished, and secure.
The Christian life is about being planted in good soil, remaining vitally connected to Christ, drawing on his resources, and bearing fruit to the Father’s good pleasure.
So what’s in that soil? Manure. Sort of. If I can press the illustration, the good soil we cultivate is the less-than-glorious, not-instagram-worthy dirt of life. It’s messy, brown, smelly; you get the idea. But it contains the hidden nutrients for our growth, flourishing, and fruit-bearing. Bible reading is good soil. Prayer is good soil. Working with honesty and integrity is good soil. Raising children and doing dishes and helping your friend with the dead car battery—all good soil. (As a pastor, I’m obligated to say the very best soil is serving in the children’s ministry.)
Over the next few weeks, I have the privilege of posting some short articles (what everyone else calls blog posts) on spiritual formation, faith and work, living in community, and anything else that relates to earthy living. My goal is to provide some encouraging reflections on the ordinary life in order that you might cultivate the good soil of your faith. I hope you enjoy it.