If someone called you today and offered your ministry two pregnant sows, a boar, and around 50 chickens, what would you do?
I can’t speak for your animal husbandry expertise personally, but it seems the vast majority of ministry leaders and innovators would never even accept a gift like that because we wouldn’t have any idea what to do with it. We wouldn’t be able to see anything other than the potential inconvenience, cost, mess, and smell of adding some live animals to our already-stretched-thin plates.
This is why we’re grateful for pastors like Rev. Bryan Wilson. Bryan Wilson is an ordained minister via the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. When he started partnering with MINC, he had pretty recently gotten off that phone call offering the livestock, and he had an idea.
Bryan is serving in a farm community in Western North Carolina and also happens to have been raised on a farm in Western North Carolina. So when he was given a chance to take over some unused agricultural land gifted by church members and then got the call about the pigs and chickens, he could see something most of us couldn’t have at that moment: the Holy Spirit at work.
Bryan took his pigs, his chickens, and his land and began to build what is now known as Still Waters Landing. Still Waters Landing is “a local pasture raised pig and produce farm with a mission to restore the community through farming, food, fellowship, and faith while ensuring the poorest in the community gain access to high quality food.” At SWL, they raise happy, pasture-fed, high-quality pigs and many varieties of local produce. Centered on concepts of rural renewal, community, and faith, they utilize local volunteers, community events, and more to make their organization not just a successful pig farm and CSA but an anchor point and a place of refuge for their community. Still Waters Landing is home to everything from worship service to community pig pickings.
Still Waters Landing is true to its core as a ministry first, donating 10% of what it raises to food pantries and hosting retreats for the Still Place, a ministry for terminally ill children and their families. They also host classes for local groups and schools who want to learn about farming, where food comes from, and how to be faithful stewards of the earth.
Listening to Bryan speak in an interview with Ministry Incubators executive team member John Harrell had me honestly googling flights to North Carolina and daydreaming about picking vegetables.
As he articulated the ministry he built, the power of what we can learn from what he had done became obvious. His advice to other innovators was simple:
Look at what you got, and ask how you be faithful with what you already have.
Rev. Wilson was able to build this incredible ministry by being faithful with each gift as it was offered to him, truly turning five talents into ten over and over again. He was intentional about staying faithful to his role as a minister to a specific community while allowing Still Waters Landing to impact people all over the country who come and visit. Bryan is an avid advocate for the rural church as a birthplace of innovation. He argues that the slower pace and orientation towards what a community has instead of what it lacks encourages the kind of restraint-inspired creativity that leads to true context-driven innovation.
Still Waters Landing couldn’t have been created in a brainstorming session at a seminary. It only exists because a pastor who grew up on a farm was serving in his own community and could spot how the Spirit was moving. Rev. Wilson could combine rich theological training with practical knowledge and a deep understanding of his community. Still Waters Landing (and many a great ministry) was born in that fertile intersection.
Consider where these elements show up in your context.
- What theological ground do you stand on? What core beliefs about God, community, and your calling anchor you to the work?
- What can you personally do that not everyone in your shoes could? How could God use your upbringing, passions outside of ministry, or unique strengths for innovative work?
- What kind of ministry makes sense for your community? Who are your people, and what ways of living, serving, worshiping, and being together make sense for them and honors their full humanity?
We hope you are as inspired by Still Waters Landing as we are and can find those places where God might be calling you to answer the phone and accept whatever metaphorical (or literal) sows that turn up on your doorstep.