Most of us, at one time or another, (especially those of us in dry climates) have known the struggle of trying to get plants to grow. When we lost our house in a wildfire almost 7 years ago, we had the opportunity to re-landscape. We didn’t go to Lowe’s on a whim one day to pick out what we liked. We planned, waited for the right time of year, and worked with a landscaper. We diligently prepared the soil, ensured a supply of water, and planted seeds and trees and bushes appropriate for the climate.
When we think about generational disciplemaking, we aren’t haphazard in our approach, any more than we would be with our back yard or garden. It’s true, for growth to happen the conditions must be right. One of my favorite passages speaking to spiritual growth and the expansion of the Kingdom is in Mark 4:
He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:26-29).
Growth and spiritual reproduction happen when the conditions for growth exist: the right time, the right kind of soil, the right kind of seed for the climate. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:6-9, (Nuenke paraphrase!), “Some plant, some water, but it’s God who causes the growth. Regardless of our individual task, we have one purpose and join God in His work…”
We must always remember – as we partner with God, our work is only joining Him in setting up the conditions for spiritual transformation. It is God who ultimately works in the hearts of people and causes the growth.
In the Mark 4 parable (above), we see man’s part: sowing seed and harvesting when the time has come. But we all know that only God can make the growth happen. We stand by as agricultural midwives… preparing the soil, planting the seed, watering – standing by with confidence for God to do what He alone can – create spiritual birth and grow a mighty oak from a small acorn!
Planting and watering are important and must happen, but let’s always remember to put our faith and dependence in the God who makes things grow (1 Corinthians 3:6,7).
How are you ‘preparing the soil’ for people to come to Christ or grow as His disciples (i.e. serving and loving not-yet-believing people, developing supportive friendships, seeding conversations with biblical insights or requests for prayer)? What is keeping you from making these advances? In what ways are you relying on the God who makes things grow?