In “Jayber Crow,” Wendell Berry tells the story of Athey Keith, a farmer determined to leave his land better than he found it. A true conservationist, Athey never plowed more than he could fertilize -- with the manure from his own animals. When Athey looked over his land he saw more than he needed and he had more than he used. Athey knew the land and the land knew him. No one element of his farm took priority over the other. Feed, cattle, crops -- it all mattered. He couldn’t have one without the other.

Then one day everything changed. Athey’s son-in-law bought a tractor. He was tired of the old way. He wanted something new and wanted it now. The tractor had a headlight and he could use it to plow after dusk. If he maintained the engine, the tractor didn’t need to rest. It plowed more land and faster than ever before. He learned that he could make more money by planting more corn than anything else. In his quest to replace the old with the new, the son-in-law lost the balance.

There may be times when people need to plow and produce more, but it doesn’t mean that we shelve the knowledge that’s been carefully cultivated over time. To my mind, it’s possible to use a tractor and to maintain an ecological balance. Just like it’s possible to use spell check, but still know how to spell.

These days it’s easy to acquire the latest technology and ideas. We can do more and we can do it faster than ever before. But a new thing is happening within the church. One by one, Christian leaders are stepping down from their tractors and back on the land. They’re not shirking technology, but they’re trying to bring the balance back.

One church I know has for many years engaged in international missions and evangelism. Their identity was wrapped up in being an evangelical church. A few years ago they began partnering with other churches in their community to do something about economic justice and racial reconciliation. This didn’t lesson their evangelical commitment. If anything it strengthened it. Recently, the church has started engaging in ministries of emotional and physical healing, again drawing on experiences that are indigenous to the universal Church, but not necessarily to their own tradition. This local church is not trying to be all things to all people and not every member is involved in every aspect of ministry. But they take seriously the biblical admonition to be the body of Christ -- each part of the body working together to sustain a healthy rhythm of the Spirit.

How do we cultivate a balanced approach to organizational leadership? Sometimes, it’s tempting to replace tradition with the next new thing. Or we’re content to sow and reap some gifts of the Spirit to the exclusion of the other gifts. We think that if one church does healing ministry and another does evangelism and another engages in social justice then that’s enough to keep the body functioning. But what if each local expression of church -- what if your church and my church -- attempted to exercise each of those parts? What would the landscape look like then?

Gannon Sims is a pastoral resident at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.