Foundations In Functional Holiness


For about 15 years of my mid-life, I was a landscape designer specializing in residential properties. During that period, I spent three years in vocational training in general horticulture and design and then five years as a teaching assistant in the program I had completed. One of the mantras drilled in our heads was, “form follows function.” In other words, how something looks is secondary to how it functions. The practical aspects of circulation through a property, adequate parking space, and how the outdoor areas would be used and enjoyed by the homeowners are essential landscape design elements. Unless a plan works, it is worthless.

Practical considerations do not register with clients, especially in the early stages of the design process. The plant placement, colors, textures, visual flow between elements in the design, although necessary, were way down my list of criteria but often first on the list of my clients.

Consequently, much of my initial work with homeowners was educational. The pushback was evident when they realized I was not ready to discuss where to plant grandma’s heirloom rose bush. May she rest in peace.

In many peoples’ minds, curb appeal is king. Comparing their yard to their neighbor’s yard is a very real pastime in many suburban subdivisions in which I worked. How their residence looked and what their neighbors thought were perhaps not blatantly displayed by their demeanor, but it was obviously on the back burner, ready to boil over. Getting the largest specimens of particular plants so that their landscape looked “mature” when installed was far more vital to them than enjoying the process of consistent growth over time.  It was just as hard to convince them to remove mature plants that had served them well but were diseased and deformed because of the visual impact it would create until replacements grew to an adequate size to fill the space.

The attitudes I just described and the scenarios I have shared should not make you think I was against my clients having and enjoying beautiful yards. They merely point out the obstacles I had to overcome in their thinking to give them what they were ultimately after, and most of the time, I was successful in my quest.

Matthew 23:23-28 says,

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (NASB) 

Here Jesus describes the thinking of many of my former clients and the current thinking and condition of many in the church of God. Great emphasis is placed on the little things that are showy, while the higher principles that make things work are ignored. They exhibit displays of misguided loyalty for the seemingly insignificant, without realizing the underlying folly of the theatrical, showcasing outward appearance while hiding inward depravity. It is curb appeal holiness versus functional holiness. It is begging the question, “How many of us look good from the street, but in our personal space, things are just not working?”

In moving away from curb appeal holiness, we need to ask several other questions: “What hinders us from experiencing functional holiness in our lives?” and “How do we move from what might look good to something that truly works? ”These are the main questions I hope to answer in this study. I hope to conclude with a general reconciliation of the main points that will be a  catalyst for more in-depth discussion and personal application.

We will be looking at general definitions, specific applications, and listening to both ancient and contemporary voices in our quest for understanding and transformation. This is a broad study that, with the Holy Spirit’s grace and guidance, will deepen your walk with Christ. May it be so. Amen.

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” (1Th 5:23-24).

Rev. Dr. J. Patrick Bowman, DBS

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