Shade Trees in Flowerpots

Recognizing Church Leadership Responsibility for Growing Fourishing Congregants

                I often listen to Bishop Corletta J. Vaughn as she ministered her series “Pentecost in a Pandemic,” on Facebook.  One morning during her teaching she talked about how she admired the work that many of our Black sisters are doing in Christian academia.  She recalled how she talked to God about how she was really liking what the sisters are doing and how she wanted to be a part of this type of academic endeavors.  To which God replied, “I didn’t call you to that.” “I called you to the masses.” She went on to explain that there are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers among the masses that God has called her to empower. There are many people sitting in churches with callings on there lives and no one is ministering to them in a way that encourages or empowers them to walk out the calling.  That struck a chord with me.  Then I heard, “You can’t keep a shade tree in a flowerpot.” 

                A few days later, I was engaged in my morning prayer and purpose lessons with a group of fellow believers know as The MoveMent.  In the lesson Pastor Kris Erskine made an analogy concerning a tree in a flowerpot.  Although I had already begun writing my blog on this topic, now I was convinced that I was on the right track and that this was something I needed to write about.

                In many churches, shade trees are being kept in flowerpots.  There are congregants with great gifts and talents just sitting in literal or virtual pews.  God has endowed them with power and purpose, yet no church leader recognizes them as a gift to be developed for the Kingdom.  When these wonderful people attempt to display their gifts and abilities, they are often shut down.  A perspective that differs from that of the leadership is often perceived as disruptive.  Leaders, who have invested many years getting the congregants to behave and respond in a manner that is conducive to their own way of thinking, refuse to empower these beautiful shade trees by planting them in areas where they can be supportive and refreshing to the church.  Instead these magnificent individuals are potted and sat in a corner where they are overlooked.  Soon their roots compact and in time they die.

                I love gardening.  As a gardener I realize that some plants do well in containers while others must be planted in the ground.  The ones planted in the ground have root systems that go deep and grow outward in search of water.  Their branches need room to spread up and out. That is just how they are designed by the Creator.  On my property there are several pecan trees.  The two in the front yard have grow to the point where they touch each other and form a canopy that not only shades the entire yard but cools the inside of the house also.  It is a welcomed refreshment in the summer to be able to sit outside underneath those cooling branches.  People often come in our yard just to sit under our trees. If you dig almost anywhere in the yard you will eventually hit a part of the root of one of the trees.  These trees were once small saplings capable of living in a pot.  Now they are large trees with expanded trunks and long outreaching branches.  In addition to providing shade from the torturous southern heat, they provide food for any creature that eats pecans and a home for squirrels and a variety of birds.

                My pastor, Dr. Tyree A. Anderson, has taught us that some leaders work to reduce a congregation to a number that they can easily manage.  There are some pastors who many be assigned churches with congregations in the hundreds.  Yet, because of their limited capacity to lead and unwillingness to engage in leadership training, they devise plans that cause congregants to exit or at least become inactive.  Now, the pastor has a number that his/her leadership ability can facilitate.  The leader is relieved and satisfied.  In many cases the congregants pose no opposition, while the church itself is rendered ineffective. That same tactic is sometimes utilized on people who are purposed and gifted to advance the Kingdom of God within the boundaries of local churches.  Such persons are devalued, and their gifts despised and left unused.  Set in a corner and overlooked, these gifted individuals are restricted in their ability to grow to full usefulness to the church and the community. 

                I have heard some pastors talk ugly about congregants who leave their church to become a member of another.  Sometimes the pastor accuses the congregants of church hopping and become resentful.  These mobile congregants often site that they are not growing at their present location.  While it may be true that some people are just never satisfied, I propose that many of those congregants are trying to escape the flowerpot and go where they can be planted in an open space.  Their root systems are spreading out and going down in search of water so that they can thrive in their full purpose. 

                Leaders, including pastors, are tasked with the responsibility of discovering the gifts of their followers and placing them where their gift benefits the entire operation.  Failure to do so results in disgruntled followers and divided congregations.  Unfortunately, some trees destined to be shade die in their flowerpots.  That is a horrible loss to the entire Kingdom.  I predict that in this age many shade trees, if they are not released, will crawl out of their flowerpots and plant themselves.  The danger in this is that they may not receive the proper nutrition and care that newly transplanted trees need to thrive.  The result is a tree that may provide some shade and nutrition but is retarded in its growth and development. 

                Every tree has the right to grow where it will flourish.  Every human has the right to exist where they can live out their full purpose.  Churches must be places where growth is expected, encouraged and empowered.  Church leaders must exercise their gift for recognizing the gifts of others and then like a master gardener, plant, and nurture them to provide beauty, shade, and refreshment for the Kingdom.

7 Actions Churches Can Take to Prevent Domestic Violence

National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233

Most of us are aware that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Almost everyone is connected to someone who has experienced receiving a breast cancer diagnosis. I have several people that I love who are breast cancer survivors.

Each October a variety of activities get underway to raise money for research to discover a cure for this dreaded disease.  There are walks and memorials.  We have “Pink-Out” days at work and church.  The concerted efforts of a variety of organization ensure that we are aware of the ravaging effects of breast cancer on patients, families and communities.

On every social media outlet and television station we see pink and hear messages that encourage us to work together to annihilate breast cancer.  Everyone from homemakers to professional athletes participate in the “call for a cure.”  However, there is another “disease” that is invading homes and leaving people ravaged and even dead.  Domestic violence is occurring at an alarming rate.  According to Psychology Today, “Domestic violence occurs when a person consistently aims to control their partner through physical, sexual or emotional abuse”. It is one intimate partner using power to gain control over another.  Unfortunately, members of churches are enduring domestic violence and as in other arenas, are suffering in silence.  Listed are six things the church can do to help.

  1. Get to know the people that you attend church with.  When I was growing up, the church I attended was small.  Everyone knew everyone else and we all lived in the same community.  Today, with larger churches and churches with multiple campuses, it is more challenging to know fellow congregants.  In todays dynamic, even members of smaller churches do not always make time to get to know each other.  Members must make an effort to get to know each other.  Attend small group meetings.  Attend church functions.  Leaders must create scenarios where congregants spend time together.  Smaller, intimate settings allow for the building of trust among members.
  2. Become educated.  Know what domestic violence is and how it affects families.  Many websites provide statistics as well as suggestions for offering assistance.  All church small groups should spend some time addressing human concerns in addition to biblical studies.  Domestic violence, especially as it relates to the state and city in which you live, should be on the list of topics discussed.
  3. Volunteer at shelters and other organizations.  Volunteering at organizations that assist victims of domestic violence gives first-hand experience on its affects.  First-hand information will assist church members in becoming effective advocates for domestic violence prevention.
  4. Invite experts to speak.  I realize many of us complain that the church service is already too long.  In these days we are required to shift our thinking in all areas, even church.  As the church is mandated to meet the needs of the people in our communities, we must be knowledgeable on what the needs are and how we can best serve. 
  5. Write your representatives.  Legislation and funding allocations are made in accordance with the demands of the voters.  Churches must begin organizing letter writing campaigns so that legislators know, that as citizens, we are concerned about domestic violence prevention and require our representatives to take action.
  6. Have a plan for assistance.  If someone came to your church and disclosed that they were a victim of domestic abuse what would you do?  What would you do if someone came to your church and disclosed that they were a perpetrator of domestic abuse?  Since we know that this reality exists in our communities, the church must have a plan for addressing it.
  7. Post information on the church’s website and in the bulletin.  The Domestic Violence Hotline number and local organizations that assist victims should be a part of your church communication. 

The local church must be effectively involved in the lives of the people.  We can no longer pretend that the challenges of the world are not prevalent within our church walls.  Once people leave our organized church services they must live in the world.  The church must be a place of safety and refuge for those in trouble.  When necessary, it must become sanctuary.


domestic violence hotline