All definitions seem to require some relationship to sex these days. The “urban dictionary” defines low-hanging fruit as: “Girls who are somewhat hot – but not too hot, and who often work in positions of high public interaction but with low-barriers-to-entry, thus making them open and attractive targets on the one hand, but often self conscious and/or harboring self esteem issues on the other. This, as a whole, makes them susceptible and quite receptive to any overtures from the opposite sex. I.e., They are the easiest of fruit to pick.” The use of the phrase: “Salty just can’t stop picking that low-hanging fruit; he just brought home his fifth receptionist this month.”
I love/hate the postmodern democracy of truth demonstrated in the Urban Dictionary, even though it is frightening. It is sort of like an intellectual horror movie. I can see what is going to happen to the thinking, but I keep watching anyway.
The more traditional way I want to use the phrase ‘low hanging fruit” relates to farming (of course!). It means that when I stray off my running path in Southern California and steal oranges from the grove (not that I ever did that!), I will be able to reach the fruit that doesn’t require that I also steal a ladder. In marketing terms, “low hanging fruit” are targets or goals that don’t require too much effort to achieve.
Circle of Hope’s “low-hanging fruit” appear to be mostly picked. This may also be true of your personal missional “grove.”
When we first started out in mission, we were sort of the only game in town. Urban
church planting was not so popular — and, to be honest, just living in Philadelphia was not as popular as it is now. We had the “marketing niche” (if I dare say that to some of you) mostly to ourselves. These days, we can throw a rock in every direction from Broad and Washington and hit a church plant sponsored by all sorts of denominations, some from within Philly and many from without, especially by the branches of the fractious Presbyterians. There is plenty of room for everyone’s mission and we love them all. But the proliferation of church plants has depleted the stock of low-hanging fruit that made our mission somewhat easy – at least easier than most missionaries face when they are on a mission. Just the young, semi-Christian people fleeing Lancaster could fill a few new church plants, it seems. We have our own contingent at 19G. Now they are spread out among a lot of good opportunities for growth and service.
So what we need to do now is come up with strategies and methods for reaching the fruit that is beyond our normal, easy reach. This is very good, since that is the crop we were planted to reach in the first place. We are slowly but surely figuring out how to do that. We have great infrastructure and general methodology for incorporating new people into our new kind of church. But we need to perfect the specifics of picking that individual “orange” that just happened to get ripe at the top of the tree.
We hope our methods are incarnational, not merely attractional. But we always use a mix of methods. One example of this is the recent discussion at BW about how to relate
to teens (fruit that often can’t sit still long enough to be picked!). We have some nice specimens in our basket already, but their friends are not going to fall into our laps because we have a meeting and make fliers. Events might be part of our plan, but the biggest part will always be people in mission who are loving and who see themselves as harvesters all the time, and who can’t rest until that farthest orange is in God’s hand.
Some people will always see orcharding as violence done to a tree, I think. I see it as a good metaphor for our role in God’s spiritual garden.