Mustard shrub, Mustard tree

He told another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and planted in his field. It’s the smallest of all seeds. But when it’s grown, it’s the largest of all vegetable plants. It becomes a tree so that the birds in the sky come and nest in its branches.”

— Matthew 13:31-32

I have always underestimated the mustard tree. A mustard plant is usually little more than a shrub, barely big enough to hold a bird’s nest. But it turns out a mustard tree can grow 6 to 20 feet with a 20 feet spread. It grows well in bad soil, desert heat and drought conditions. Any water will do, even water so salty it kills most plants. It grows so well in such bad conditions that it spreads like a weed in the Middle East.

A mustard plant produces mustard while it’s still small, but it’s potential size and productivity is enormous. It doesn’t have to be babied, fertilized and irrigated like other plants. The kingdom of heaven, then, is rugged, robust, opportunistic, productive for its size and rich with enormous potential.

Tropical Sands Christian Church is small by some measures, but 60 percent of all U.S. Protestant congregations are even smaller. This summer, we’ve faced fundraising challenges that seemed too big, but we trusted in God and met our goals ahead of schedule. We’re a productive little shrub, and potentially, a great tree!

It is good to be frugal, humble and contented with having enough. It is good to count your blessings and be grateful for what you have. I hope we are that thankful congregation. But we do the kingdom a disservice if we think we can’t be productive or won’t grow larger.

I feel like I’m watching a little mustard bush grow into a tree. New people, new activities and new ministries are our branches. Members are discovering people and services they never noticed before. People who came to test our merciful, accepting approach to faith are settling in. It isn’t our church; it’s God’s church, and we rejoice to see how God grows the church into more than we could imagine.

The kingdom of heaven is like a tiny mustard seed. Don’t let the size fool you. This plant grows like a weed and gets productive in a hurry. It’s productive even as a shrub, and with care and attention, it grows into a tree. The birds of the sky come and nest in its branches.

People accuse me of bragging about Tropical Sands Christian Church. Guilty! What better way to encourage your potential as children of God than to remind you of what God has already done in our lives? Yes, it’s an amazing church!

The mustard seed grows in a challenging environment – bad soil, little water, torturous heat – but grow it does, into a productive shrub with big tree potential. It’s like the kingdom of heaven, and isn’t that where we live? Have faith, keep working, and expect great things at Tropical Sands Christian Church!

 

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About Joel Tucker

Joel Tucker is senior pastor at Tropical Sands Christian Church. He served as associate pastor five years and became senior pastor in 2006. Currently, he also serves as moderator of the Southern District, Florida Region. He holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism from Auburn University. He enters ministry after 20 years in corporate communications and five years of computer programming. In worship, he plays sax, bass, uke, squeezebox and bass fiddle.
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