Olive Trees

Olive trees are rather amazing. I’ve never worked in an olive grove, but I did grow up in Spain, which has about 40 million olive trees. I couldn’t help but learn about olive trees as I drove across the country and saw olive trees from one horizon to the other.

There is a saying that when a farmer plants an olive seedling, he is planting it for his children. Olive trees mature slowly; an olive tree is 25 years old before it bears fruit. Not many farmers today can wait 25 years for a crop to come in.

But the olive tree is also amazing for its longevity. An olive tree will live about 1, 000 years, and some are even 2, 000 years old. So once an olive tree is 25 years old and begins to produce olives, it will continue to do so for the next 1,000 years if it is cared for properly.

Olives are harvested in a rather harsh fashion. Cloths are spread out under the tree and the branches are beaten with long poles. A hail of olives falls on the cloths. The cloths are gathered, and the olives are poured into buckets. These olives are used for food, pressed to make olive oil, or planted for another generation’s benefit. The olive tree doesn’t grow tall; it is smallish. Its trunk is not straight, so its wood is not good for construction. The olive tree is a humble tree that in maturity gives results for centuries to come.

It may be a stretch, but I’d like to compare church buildings to the olive tree. Typically they are not grandiose architectural masterpieces but are functional. They take many years to plan and build, but they will be with us for generations to come. Every generation or so, churches add a structure—knowing the primary beneficiaries will be their children and grandchildren. And, at some point in the unknown future, a decision will be made to tear down the building that the current generation labored so hard to construct.

Church buildings should be seen as investments:

  • First is the money that is raised to pay for the land and the building itself. It usually takes years to raise the money and pay off the principal and interest on the construction debt. If the generation doesn’t pay off the debt, then we saddle the next generation with debt plus the expense of maintaining the facility.
  • The second and greatest investment we make in our new building is people, especially our children. The building is a tool, not the goal; the measuring stick is how many lives the building affects for the Kingdom. We must ensure that the classrooms have the best teachers and leaders and they have all the training and resources they need to do the volunteer job they’ve been asked to do. The result will be people who leave the structures each day to go into the world knowing and sharing the love of God with each and every person they meet.

As we invest our money and our lives in church buildings, only God knows the fruit it will bear over the next several generations, because we planted a seed.

Lead On!