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Thinking Out Loud

Farm Church

by Michael Jinkins | Jul 07, 2015

Ben Johnston-KraseBY BEN JOHNSTON-KRASE

Editor’s note: Today’s blog is guest-written by the Rev. Ben Johnston-Krase, organizing pastor of Farm Church, a new worshiping community in the Presbyterian Church (USA). For six years, Ben served as the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Racine, Wisconsin. Before that, he was the associate pastor for campus and young adult ministries at University Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas.  

“I’m starting a new church.”
“What kind of church?”
“It’s going to be on a farm. It’s going to be called ‘Farm Church.’”
“Farm Church? Huh. Are you going to have pigs and sheep, stuff like that?”
“Well, actually, yeah!”

For months now, I’ve been telling people about what I’m doing, and it never gets old. This time it was with a city worker taking down trees in front of our house in Racine: the house we’re trying to sell; the house that used to be framed so beautifully by two giant ash trees that have fallen prey to the emerald ash borer and had to come down. And so he asked me about the “For Sale” sign in the front yard, the one they were meticulously trying to avoid as one herculean branch after another came crashing down.

“Where’s it gonna be?” This is the first question everybody asks me about Farm Church, and the answer is still, “Don’t know yet.”

He paused and looked me over, wondering to himself, maybe, whether or not he ought to offer some advice about church planting—the part that involves selling your home before you know where you’re going. After a few seconds, with a puzzled but at least somewhat appreciative look on his face, he said with his thick Wisconsin accent, “Well, that’s faith for ya!”

It was affirming to add this man’s voice to God’s sense of direction in my life, which has been pulling me toward this vision of Farm Church for months now. It started last summer with a dream in which I was called to serve a new church. I said “yes” to this new call, sight unseen. When I arrived, it was a farm, of all things. I woke up and thought, “That’s not a bad idea!” Minutes later, I bought the domain name, www.FarmChurch.org, on the off chance that God was calling me to do something new.

Since that night, Farm Church has grown from a half-baked 3 a.m. dream into a compelling, wild and sometimes scary sense of Christ’s call—a call to leave my previous pastoral position and start a new worshiping community with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Along the way, I’ve been honored and humbled to share it with two friends and their families. Together we are moving toward this vision of a church that feeds people both spiritually and physically.

As my Farm Church colleague Allen Brimer puts it: “Farm Church invites the spiritually curious into a life practice of Christ-centered faith and service where Christ’s rituals of feeding, teaching and healing are couched in the growing, collecting, preparing and serving of food.”

Right now we’re prayerfully striving to discern where best to “plant” this ministry. We need at least 30 acres close enough to a population center so that we can both draw worshipers together and address local food security issues. Through our website and our Facebook page, (www.facebook.com/FarmChurch.Org) we are cultivating an online presence and networking with the hope that we will sense God’s leading.

Sometimes I still wake up in the middle of the night. Only there is no dream.  Just an endless list of questions that spring out of my decision to say “yes” to this call. Where will Farm Church be? Where will my girls go to school?  How will we find land? Will we buy? Lease? Borrow? And then, will anyone come?

Through it all, the astounding, heart-gripping reality that brings tears to my eyes whenever I think about it is the beautiful fact that we are not alone. From David, who gave us our first donation, to Maureen, who volunteers as our fundraising consultant, to Peter, who is encouraging his church to become a Farm Church Mission Partner Congregation, to so many others, we have been blessed with a wonderful Communion of Saints, praying for us and cheering us on.

Sometimes I sense their presence and feel the power of their prayers commingling with the Spirit’s steady voice, calling us forward. And I remember that Farm Church isn’t really about me or my idea. Rather it’s about a church ready to risk, daring to dream, even in the face of an uncertain future. To borrow words from a new friend, “That’s faith for ya!”

Related: “Dreaming of a church with no steeples, buildings,” Presbyterian News Service (March 23, 2015).

Learn more about Farm Church online at www.FarmChurch.org, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FarmChurch.org or on Twitter @MadFarmerBen.

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