Sowing the Seed for Church Growth
Rev. Sam Roper
Jesus teaches about the kingdom of God, using two parables. We see Jesus employing farming imagery in order to teach us that the kingdom of God is a growing kingdom.
The kingdom of God on earth is imperfect and incomplete, so growth is very important.
The analogy of farming, then, is quite suitable in that the goal of every farmer is to see growth in the crops. Farmers desire their crops to grow both in number and in maturity.
It’s no use to have an abundance of crops if the crops do not grow to maturity. And, by the same token, it’s not much consolation to have mature crops if there aren’t enough to use or to sell.
It is a God-ordained principle that living things grow; lack of growth, either in size or maturity, in any living organism indicates a problem.
By the same token, if a church experiences a lack of growth, in number or maturity, it’s an indication that something is wrong.
This is a fair comparison, given the New Testament often refers to the church as “a body,” and more specifically, as “Christ’s body.” Since the church is like a body, and because the church is better described as an organism than as an organization, we should expect the church to grow.
The Christian Church is the living plantation of Jesus Christ. And as such, the Christian Church should be growing.
As gardeners, we expect what we plant will grow. We realize the volume and the quality of growth may vary, due to a variety of factors, but we expect growth nonetheless.
We would be greatly surprised and grieved if nothing grew in our garden. Yet sadly, many Christians are content with the status quo in their church.
Expectation for Growth
This contradicts what Jesus teaches about the kingdom of God. Jesus teaches us in these parables that the kingdom of God is in our midst, and is intended to grow.
In Mark 4:26, Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop is ripe, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
In the second parable, Jesus says, “The kingdom of God…is like a mustard seed, which when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so the birds of the air can nest under its shade.”
We should note that the kingdom of God is compared twice to something that grows. And the expectation is for significant growth.
No farmer desires a small harvest, but a large one. And the mustard seed, though smaller than most seeds, often grows to be 10 feet tall.
The kingdom of God may have begun as a tiny seed in Palestine nearly 2000 years ago, but the kingdom has since grown, and will continue to grow as the Gospel spreads to the ends of the earth.
The first thing we should note from our text is that Jesus expects his church to grow.
Sowing the Seed
The second thing we should note from these parables is that the growth process begins with someone casting seed upon the soil. A gardener would never expect anything from the soil unless they had first sown seed.
The same is true with the church. Church growth is intended to be as natural as the growth of vegetables in your garden.
Of course, a farm never brings forth a harvest without seed first being sown. In the same way, the church of Jesus Christ – the kingdom of God on earth – will grow where the Gospel seed is being sown.
God has ordained that people will come to Christ through hearing His Word.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “The spreading of the gospel . . . is an urgent duty, to be neglected at your peril.”
The church, the kingdom of God, is intended to grow, but it will not grow without our participation. Weeds will grow without our help, but wheat will not.
We cannot simply open our doors on Sunday and call that outreach. If this church is to grow, we must be committed to sowing the Gospel in the hearts of those who do not know Jesus Christ.
We can do this by directly sharing the Gospel message with friends and family. Or. we can do this by inviting friends and family members to come to church – knowing that, at the very least, the minister can sow the Word of God as he preaches.
It should also be said that the Word of God needs to be sown often, for the times are such that one sowing may not suffice.
Sow again and again, for many are the foes of the wheat, and if you do not repeat your sowing you may never see a harvest.
Recognizing that sowing once does not always bring a harvest (1 Corinthians 3:6), the apostle Paul speaks of himself as one who sows, and his colleague, Apollos, as one who waters.
A Long Process
We conclude then, that seeking a harvest is not a one-time event. Seeking a harvest is a process, and potentially a long one.
Where possible, the soil should be tilled and prepared. The seed is then scattered and watered. Next comes the hardest part of all – we wait.
We wait because, after the seed has left our hand, we cannot cause it to bring forth life.
As Jesus said in verse 27, “The seed sprouts and grows, (but the sower) does not know how”(4:27). Mark?
As the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:6, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
With regard to the kingdom of God on earth, we are charged with the responsibility of scattering seed. We are commanded to spread the Gospel message.
But nowhere in Scripture do we see human beings causing spiritual rebirth in others. Spiritual rebirth is a work of God, and a work of God alone.
Yet, at the same time, there is a process leading up to that rebirth, and in that process, Christ calls for our participation.
The problem I see in many churches today is that there are very few Christians willing to engage in the process.
We want God to do all the work. But this is not what Scripture requires.
Jesus requires that we sow the seed. And while we should not view ourselves as personally responsible for another person’s salvation, we must not view ourselves as unnecessary to the process either.
God has ordained to save people through a process, whereby one person shares the good news of Jesus Christ to another.
Isaiah 55:11 says, “My Word which goes forth… shall not return empty without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” check quote
Because the kingdom of God is a present reality, because all authority has been given to Christ, and because we are His Body, we should expect to see a harvest. We should expect the Gospel to succeed. We should expect to see the Christian Church grow – not decline.
We expect to see a harvest, but we should not expect to find every seed springing up.
I do not expect that when I preach the gospel, every person who hears it will receive it.
What I do expect is that where the Gospel is preached to many, it will be received by some – according to the will of God.
We Must Participate
God does not expect you or me to work miracles; leave that for Him. But God does expect each and every one of His children to work the farm. He expects us to scatter the seed.
If I were to ask anyone in this church what your desire for this congregation is, I expect the answer would be based on the premise that we all want this congregation to mirror God’s heavenly kingdom as closely as possible.
In other words, we would desire this fellowship – this living organism – this body, to be a picture of Heaven on Earth.
If that is our desire, then we must be a church that is growing and maturing.
To be that, we must be a church that is actively sowing the seeds of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And where do we sow these seeds? I suggest not travel far. How about your family? are all your children in church? What about your brothers or sisters? Maybe you have cousins who need to respond to God’s call.
Most of us have opportunities to sow the seed of Christ within our own families. But many, myself included, fail to regularly and purposefully reach ou to those closest to us.
My challenge is for each of us to look for opportunities to sow the seed of the gospel, then to purposefully go about our responsibility of winsomely sowing the seeds of the kingdom.
If we are to be the church Christ calls us to be, we must be a church who holds forth the Lord jesus Christ. Not just once, not just once in a while, but regularly – and repeatedly.
May we grow together as we sow – and sow – and sow – and sow some more.
The church will grow – if we are faithful to share His Word with others.