The Life is in the Seed
Churches can be so simple that they can be planted easily. But how do you instruct someone to plant a church in a few hours or a few days? Yesterday, I wrote about the power of the Gospel to transform broken men and women into the church. Today, I think it’s important to acknowledge a truth that we often forget: Churches are planted and grow because the life of the church is in the seed of the Gospel.
Jesus often described the Kingdom of God growing like a seed. In the Gospel of Mark he describes it this way:
Jesus also said, ‘The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.’
Notice something important here. The Kingdom grows, but the man who planted does not know how it happens. It happens while the man is asleep or awake, night or day. There is literally nothing he can do after he has planted the seed to make it grow faster.
Often, when we talk about church planting, we are talking about a very man-driven idea. We are talking about not just sowing seed into the ground, but going out and forcing that seed to grow, reproduce, and stay healthy, all in our own strength. Going back to the seed analogy, we don’t often trust the genetics of the seed to grow a healthy plant.
This is why we have such a hard time believing that a church can be planted in hours or days or weeks. Instead, because we feel like we must create an environment for believers to flourish, we stay very involved creating perfect scenarios for believers to succeed. Undoubtedly some will flourish in this type of environment, but they won’t multiply and reproduce well.
It’s important to stop here and say something very clearly: There is power in the Gospel of Jesus to change people. This power doesn’t stop changing people once they’ve decided to become a believer. After someone decides to follow Jesus, the Gospel continues to have a transforming affect on them. In fact, it’s critical that believers continue to draw their strength from the good news of the Kingdom because when they stop, they begin to be deceived. We never graduate from receiving life from the Gospel, we just continue to find new places where it changes us.
This is part of the reason why Paul was able to move on from the churches that he started–he trusted the power of the Gospel seed he had sown into each church’s life. Undoubtedly persecution and the need to spread the Gospel played a part in that decision, but ultimately Paul came to a place where he could trust the Lord with each of the churches he started. He recognized it wasn’t his oversight or preaching but the Gospel that he sowed into each believer that would cause them to continue to move toward Jesus.1
Paul and company truly believed that “God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns,” (Philippians 1:6). So they would entrust a church to the Lord, believing that a living, resurrected Jesus would continue to move them toward Himself by the power of the Gospel. The Gospel that they had sowed initially (the beginning of the good work) would continue until Christ returns.
Friends, we can plant churches in short periods of time, not just because the training is simple or the follow up is good, but because the Gospel has power to transform people. When the Gospel is living and active in a person’s heart, they move towards Christ and towards each other. They may need reminders and encouragements and these can be given, but the strength to walk the Christian life comes not from leaders or elders or programs, but the Gospel’s ability to make us real disciples.
And it all starts with a simple seed.
1I am not saying oversight is unnecessary. Paul set up overseers and commissioned others to appoint overseers. I’m only saying he didn’t understand overseers as the primary thing that fueled spiritual growth in believers. That started and ended with the Gospel.