I only went because I’m an addict to adventure. But, after my experience with The Little Grand Canyon, or Providence Canyon, in South Georgia, I can now speak of the greater metaphor it holds.
Providence Canyon, or as the locals call it, The Little Grand Canyon, is a state park in rural South Georgia. The park hosts 1,160 acres of land, which includes 160 “canyons”, some as deep as 160 feet. A trail along the rim boasts 43 different colors of sand, soil, and minerals, which add to its mysterious beauty. Although the landscape has been compared to the geography of the Southwest, its history is unique. The canyons flow into huge gullies not formed by rainwater, but by rainwater runoff from farm fields. Anyone who is has ever held a personal garden or large farm would know how detrimental rainwater runoff can be if you are to succeed in any type of harvest
According to The New Georgia Encyclopedia, “Historical accounts indicate that the canyon began forming in the early 1800s as the result of poor soil-management practices. Native forest cover had been cleared so the land could be farmed, and early-nineteenth-century farmers in this region took no measures to avoid soil erosion. Small gullies formed and rapidly grew deeper and more extensive. By 1850 ditches three to five feet deep had been cut into the land, further concentrating runoff and increasing the rate of erosion”. The entire state park is centered around the result of poor soil-management practices while making money off of its failure.
When we consider the Scriptures, especially the New Testament, we build on the very work Christ has done in it. As we gaze upon him and actions in Scripture, the soil of our hearts become readied for the Spirit to plant the seeds of Christ’s character, namely the fruits of the Spirit. As we study and understand the Bible, the way a farmer considers which seeds to plant in a field, what we are actually doing is loving his Word, hiding it in our hearts, treasuring it, believing it, hoping in its truth. As the New Testament expresses Christ’s love for us, it continues to assure Christ’s heart toward us post ascension.
Do you want patience to sprout? How about gentleness, or kindness? Then, consider Christ’s patient heart toward sinners as you gaze upon his patient, gentle, and kind actions. Let it be planted into the soil of your very soul. When this happens daily and personally in the hearts of believers, it will follow suit corporately. If there is no personal cultivation, then the corporate gathering will have lands like the Little Grand Canyon. The church then becomes a tourist attraction of its past, or worse, a model for poor soil-management practices. The church that ends up like this will serve only as a reminder of what NOT to do.
There is no program, no activity, no business meeting, no deacon’s meeting, no Sunday night fellowship dinner that can take the place of personal cultivation in the hearts of local body of believers. The soil of your soul and heart must be readied before the corporate gathering can take place. Do not be deceived, a better program will never rectify poor soil-management practices. It may simply be a band-aid until a full blown landslide of mud and sand create the first canyon, but it will never be able to change the heart-soil of its members. That must be done personally. If a church is failing, look to the hearts of its members, and you’ll see the cracks of dry land where the living water has not yet satisfied its soil in years. You’ll see preferences disunifying its people, and activity driven programs keeping its people worn out and distracted from the main goal: worship and helping one another endure until the end.