I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. – John 12:24-26
I have been thinking a lot about seeds lately. Jesus talked a lot about seeds and the kingdom of God. For instance, in Matthew chapter thirteen, Jesus said that there are four types of “soil” that the Word of God can be planted in – as birdseed on a path, in rocky soil, in thorn-ridden soil and in good soil. He also said that the kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed that grows into a tree for birds to perch in. He said that branches must stay tapped into the vine (Jesus) in order to bear fruit (John 15:5).
The Apostle Paul told us that when it comes to kingdom growth we can only plant and water – God alone causes seeds to grow (1 Corinthians 3:5-9). He said that the harvest belongs to God. He said that we are “God’s field, God’s building.”
A seed is special because it contains everything that it needs to create an adult plant. The purpose of an adult plant is to grow and make more seeds so that those seeds can go forth and make more adult plants. I’m stating the obvious but think about the power of just one seed. Incredible design! Of course this same principle can be applied to animals and people too. God blessed Adam and Eve and commanded them to be fruitful multiply and to subdue the earth.
Jesus compared the Gospel message to a seed. He said that we are called to plant the Word of God in good soil so that it will grow and produce mature plants who will go on to make more plants. Recently a good friend of mine challenged me with the following question. Len, what are you currently doing in your life to make disciples that make disciples? Jesus promised to be with us always and left us with the Great Commission to 1) “go,” 2) “make disciples of all nations,” 3) baptize “them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” and 4) teach them “to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
As I have been reflecting on my friend’s question new questions have been flooding my mind like, how is the “church” doing in training disciples how to reproduce? What is a “church” from a Biblical perspective? What is the purpose of a “church?” What constitutes a “church plant?” Why are so few “churches” planting other “churches?”
This may sound a little harsh but it seems to me that most churches do a better job packaging seeds than planting them. They keep the seeds free from dirt, water and the sunshine in a climate controlled comfort zone. A few adventurous churches are more like greenhouses that plant the seeds but they carefully monitor the plants and control their growth and distribution. It is expensive to build and maintain greenhouses.
I’m pretty sure that Jesus had something else in mind for the expansion of the kingdom of God than packets of dried up seeds and greenhouses. He talked more about the open fields. He said that when seeds are planted out in fields it would be messy. Weeds would be sown amongst the wheat, which would slow the growth of the good seed, but the end result would be an abundant harvest (Matthew 13:24-30).
I have a lot more to say about this subject but I will save it for another day. So how about it… in what ways are you planting the Word of God around you? What are you doing to fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples that make disciples? Is your church more like a seed factory, a greenhouse or an open field when it comes to expanding the kingdom of God? Where are you in your journey to transform from a single seed to a healthy plant that produces fruit and more seeds?
Dear Lord, forgive me for being so selfish and trying to stay comfortable. It hurts to die to self but I know that you have called us to stay attached to the vine so that we can grow and produce fruit that is full of new seed. Please forgive us for building seed factories and greenhouses when we should be working with you to till, plant and harvest the fields for your glory.