I attended a conference in Kansas a few weeks ago, and in the pre-conference continuing education seminars, I heard from Will Mancini. Appropriate for our entrance into fall, I heard him tell the story of a pumpkin…

“A pumpkin farmer was strolling through her rows of beautiful green leaves. At the beginning of the season, the acorn size pumpkins were beginning add dots to the landscape. When she glanced own she noticed a clear glass jar and curiosity got the best of her. She brought the jar over to one of her pumpkin buds, slipped the small pumpkin inside, and left it sitting there in the field. Months later, with the experiment long forgotten, the farmed walked her land with great satisfaction as large beautiful pumpkins covered the patch. Startled, she noticed the glass jar totally intact, yet completely filled up with that little pumpkin that grew inside. It was hard not to notice how the thin, glass barrier defined the shape of the orange mass within. The pumpkin was only one-third of the size it should have been. 

The problem for this little pumpkin is the same problem for most churches today. Rather than growing to their full potential based on their unique DNA, they conform to the shape of external mold or model. These ‘glass jars’ create invisible barriers for growth and predetermine the shape of community for churches…”

As I have wrapped up a series of community conversations to learn more about Linworth UMC and the beautiful, dedicated people who make up its ministries, I find myself asking what jars we have put ourselves. A jar is not a bad thing… It is a place of safety. It is a place of longevity. But you will only get out of a jar what you put it, and (like Will told in the story above) we will never grow beyond the confines of our jar. 

If answering on behalf of yourself or Linworth UMC feels a little “too close to home,” then take a moment to think… what are some “jars” that churches may have to break out of in order to live into God’s dream for the whole of creation? What are ways that we stunt our own growth when we fall more in love with our jars than we do the pumpkins inside of them?