Of course, the idea of organic is much broader than food production. It includes environmentally friendly practices in lawn care, building supplies, and the more scientific designations of materials that decay over time and those that don’t. There is even such a thing as organic thinking which focuses on a holistic approach to human interaction. However, the practice of organic gardening and farming is what most people think of when they hear the term, as these constitute the platform for the modern organic movement.
The organic movement emerged in response to the industrialization of farming in the 1940s when synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers became commonplace. Since this time other controversial methods have been introduced such as irradiation, growth hormones for livestock, and genetic engineering. Not long ago the discovery of some genetically modified wheat in Oregon set off a firestorm of panic and led a Japanese wheat importer to cancel a major order.
Consumers are not only concerned about inorganic plants, but also their impact on other consumable goods as the work their way up the food chain. For example, people want to know how much pesticide travels from the grain a cow eats to the milk she produces, and finally to an infant who is nursed by a mother who eats and drinks dairy products.
You may be wondering why I am spending so much time processing the organic issue, especially as it relates to our walk with the Lord. To explain my rationale, I need to return to the 1940s and ask a rather basic question: “Why did farmers introduce synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers to their fields?” There are some obvious biological answers to this question, but I think there is something even more fundamental. Farmers enhanced their techniques to produce more food, more quickly, for more money. While it should be noted these modern innovations don’t guarantee a bumper crop or prevent natural disasters, they do help offset farm losses incurred in the bad times.
In the same way, the modern church is living in a time of spiritual industrialization. This is a personal observation with positive and negative implications. It is a positive sign when we respond aggressively to Christ’s statement, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” (John 4:35). Why would we not want to be reaching more people, more quickly, to reap greater kingdom growth? The Lord has given us unparalleled resources, and to fail to use them would put us in the category of the man who hid his one talent in the ground and was condemned for his foolishness.
On the other hand, in our effort to make the most of what God has given us, we must be careful we don’t evaluate success by numbers alone regardless of the size of our ministry. Please don’t misunderstand. I think it is easy to excuse our laziness in sharing Christ by saying the church isn’t about numbers. Indeed, reaching the world with the gospel is about numbers, because there is no better way to measure our progress. Yet, if we are careless it is possible to unwittingly poison our spiritual well and spoil the soil for future generations of believers, should the Lord tarry.