Low Hanging Fruit

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.

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About Rod White

Pastor for Circle of Hope. Graduate of Fuller Seminary, PhD in MFT from Eastern University.
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8 Responses to Low Hanging Fruit

  1. Michelle says:

    I’m a parent of one of the “young, semi-Christian people fleeing Lancaster”, that (according to Jonny) goes to an “old church”. Study of church history reveals that most “movements” or revivals only last for one generation. Each new generation thinks they are “way too smart” to go to “the same old, church of their parents”. Full of zeal (& a touch of rebellion), these young people are convinced they are starting something fresh & new & applicable to their generation. Funny thing is, as this this “new house” weathers the inevitable storms of time; the fresh coat of paint wears off, the up-to-date furniture gets holes in it & the once-fashionable curtains start to smell musty. What ultimately reveals itself, is a house with issues much like the one of our parents …& the cycle continues.
    Is it possible to build on what our parents started? Can we honor the previous generation & what they learned, thus their “ceiling” becoming our “floor”?
    I would like to propose that the “low hanging fruit” you refer to is just that; fruit. Fruit comes from healthy trees that have deep roots. These trees have endured pruning, years of sunshine & rain that ultimately produce fruit. This fruit that you so joyfully pick & claim as your own harvest, didn’t become fruit by accident. My guess is that you’re filling your “new” church plants with the fruit of someone else’s labor & not the lost & dying world. So, enjoy the fruit of our labor, but please honor, not condem where it came from.

    • Rod White says:

      No condemning here, Michelle. Here is one of our proverbs: “We intend to keep all the great things God has given through the church of the past and be totally at home in our own time, ready and able to relate to the people of our day.”

  2. Rachel Sensenig says:

    Confessions of a low-hanging fruit that thankfully got picked (a Christian moved to Philly a few years ago to live incarnationally and realized she needed to be part of a faith community to do that)—-it’s time to grow up in faith and love the world (and not the things that are in the world) like Jesus did. We’ve got more evidence now that the harvest is ripe and the laborers are few.

  3. I think pretty much everyone Jesus came into contact with in the Gospels would not be considered “low hanging fruit” in that time. Seeking beyond those who are immediately receptive to our message must be a characteristic of Jesus followers today, including the people who would create a ridiculous post on urban dictionary.
    Cultural comparisons are easy to abuse. I like “L’s” use of the word “recruit”. This word was hijacked by the military. I like the idea of using it as a kingdom growing tool rather than a tool of the army.

  4. Rod White says:

    “L” — Whoever you might be (well, I know but others don’t), I agree that the term is a horror. But I also appreciate “ludicrous” — sorry if it offends you a little.

    Thanks for the compliment and the challenge. Tonight we are constructing ladders for teens, BTW (like I implied). I’m sure your ideas are as good as mine, but I will keep thinking about what to state.

  5. Jonny Rashid says:

    I think you’re right, Rod, planting urban churches is very common these days — it is a huge trend. “Missional, incarnational” — that is it to say, based in relationships and finding the next person — is now a buzzword among church-planters, who are formerly attractional. Of course, they are using an attractional model, as they write their books, give their speeches, and host their conferences.

    I hope that we can truly build relationships that bring people to Jesus, instead of faking it and hoping that people just buy into the same old, church of their parents again. This generation’s way too smart for that. They’re even over Facebook.

  6. L says:

    I simply can’t agree with the coinage “low hanging fruit” referring to women in the past, present, or future vocabulary of anyone. I have never heard this uttered. Hope to never hear it uttered. And using it in a twist to try and segway into church planting goals is ludicrous. Preporting to turn something demeaning into something meaningful by asserting that somewhere out there it is a common term is sad.
    I propose that the Urban Dictionary is not a dictionary but a catalog of non-standard English produced by masses of uneducated persons uninterested in doing any real work towards self-improvement.

    You are a fabulous writer. I would like to hear you specifically STATE what some examples of low-hanging fruit are as well as the fruit that is hard to reach. Is it recruiting new members? or is it just setting a good example as a christian day in and day out in a humdrum fashion but which allows us to represent our values in positive and steadfast light? Are you loosing sleep at night over the rotting fruit? Do we need to have a parade or something? What shall we do ??

  7. Nick Schummer says:

    I was talking to someone the other day and described the churched Christians moving to Philadelphia (usually for school) and looking for a new spiritual home as “low hanging fruit.” It was a good conversation about how we need these people as we plant new churches and prepare to raise that big ladder to get at the fruit throughout the whole tree (the thousands of life long, multi-generational Philadelphia residents who are unchurched or were shafted by the church at some point and have had their faith lapse.) It’s good to see this supply of low hanging fruit be replenished and deployed instead of rotting on the tree.

    I think we have a few tall ladders on the truck, about to be deployed to fetch that fruit. The 2 that stand out to me are the Good Business Team (http://circleofhope.net/Jesus/compassion-2/good-business-oversight-team/) and the Baby Goods Exchange Team (http://circleofhope.net/Jesus/compassion-2/bgx-baby-goods-exchange/). There are of course others. It’s a very exciting time to be living in Philadelphia and participating in the Kingdom of God incarnated throughout the neighborhoods of Philadelphia and South Jersey!

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