I remember the days when everyone who read the illustration I am about to use would be able to relate to it in a personal way—their memories would be vivid. This practice was much more common back then than going out to eat, and it would not be seen as cruel or inhumane.
I have done this plenty of times myself, but what I most remember are all the times as a child that I watched my Grandmother (Mama Brooks) ring a chicken’s neck to cook for our next meal. She always picked the bird she wanted to butcher and it was almost always one that had stopped reproducing. A hen that would not lay or a rooster that would not breed was good for nothing on the farm but putting on your dinner plate!
While she got the hot water hot, she would let us young-uns catch the bird. Mama Brooks would then take the chicken by the neck and would fling it around and around in a circle with a quick flicking of her wrist. Within just a split second, the neck would break and she would just drop the bird to the ground because she knew what was going to happen next.
The chicken hit the ground flapping its wings and kicking with both feet like never before. It jumped, flipped, flopped and bounced around uncontrollably like—well like a chicken with a wrung neck! It is sort of like watching a bucking horse but in fast forward! Before the commotion was over, the chicken may be thirty or more feet from where she dropped it, even though its life had been terminated before it left her hand. Mama Brooks had done her job of putting the fatal move on the chicken, but in the dying process, the chicken was more active than it ever was when it was alive. I have never seen a live chicken that could move like one of those who was already dead but whose body was still in the dying process. It was not reproducing anything, but it sure was active and busy! Though it was dead on the inside, it appeared to be full of life on the outside!
As I look around at so much that is going on around us, in our families, our churches, our courts, our culture, our government, in our media, and around the world, I am somehow reminded of this process of watching a chicken whose neck has been wrung. We have so much going on, so many programs, so many activities, so many facilities and possessions, and so much technology to entertain us, but in the midst of it all, I ponder as to whether this points to the fact that we are living the abundant life God prepared for us and prepared us for, or are we in fact dead and just don’t know it yet, all while going through all the motions of a very active and productive life!
Particularly as it pertains to Christian families and to the Church (the Body of Christ), the the best way to distinguish between the two is to examine our own lives, our schedules, our activities, our checkbooks and our motives, and then determine if we are actually reproducing as Christ has commanded us to do. Are we bringing the members of our family and others to true faith in Christ and intentionally and strategically living out the will of God before them, working to help them become disciples who know God’s Word and His will so that they become true followers of Christ? Or, are we just going through the motions—actively and busily going through life and doing church, but not reproducing anything more than family and church members who have not been transformed by their own personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the indwelling power and presence of His Holy Spirit?
As you think about this, let me use another analogy to make the point. This week we conducted Breeding Soundness Evaluations (BSEs) on our herd bulls. These are tests we do each year before we put the bulls in with the cow herd to insure that they are fertile, are reproductively and structurally sound, and that they can perform their duties of both breeding and impregnating the cow herd—which is their only useful purpose. If they are not adequately equipped and capable of doing their job in the reproductive process, a whole generation of new calves and the entire harvest for that year will be forever lost.
This is the exact situation that we find ourselves in this year with our replacement heifers that were ‘supposed’ to have calved this past fall. The bull we had with the heifers is indeed a fine one—one of the best you will see and one that we get the most complements on. His pedigree, growth performance, phenotype—everything about him is just what you would look for in a herd bull.
He spent months with the heifers. From a distance, it looked like he was working very aggressively. He was really busy, seemingly going through the motions of impregnating the heifers. We could not wait to see the calves that would result from the mating of this exceptional bull with these fine heifers. There was just one problem: he was not getting the job done. Despite his busyness and activity, he was not reproducing. He was working hard and it looked like he was going through the motions, but we found out last week that he was not even penetrating the heifers. He would follow them, he would mount them, but he was not breeding them! It all looked good from a distance, but when the facts were in and when we examined him more closely, he had not done his job and had accomplished nothing that he was put in the herd to do.
Now, back to reproduction within Christian homes and Churches. It is easy for us to either willingly or unwillingly deceive ourselves and others. For deception to be effective, it must appear to be the real thing (just like a counterfeit bill). This is why we need to ask the Lord to examine our own hearts as individuals and as the Body of Christ and allow Him to really evaluate the fruit of all our activities, busyness, programs, facilities, budgets and even our motives to see if and what we are actually reproducing.
Unlike the chicken or the bull that were active but failed to reproduce, we are all reproducing and influencing others. Either we are alive in Christ and are giving life to others by leading them to Jesus and helping them become His true disciples, or our works are dead and are breeding death by leading them away from Him. Perhaps even more destructive, we could be teaching them to be counterfeits who think they have life, when in reality they are dying and do not know it.
Being active and going through the motions is no substitute for reproduction. Having church is much different from being the Church! Proclaiming Christ and living for Christ are not synonymous! Are you alive in Christ and reproducing or are you just busy?