Preparing the Ground for Harvest
In this article, we will discuss how leaders can prepare for growth in their church and ministry. It is not enough to get members into a church, but we must help members to thrive and grow. In Matthew 13:20-22, Jesus tells the parable of the sower. Seeds were planted into 3 different soil types – stony, thorny, and rocky. As leaders, we must know the types of soil in which we are planting, so that we can reap a harvest. We will encounter individuals whose hearts represent these 3 types of soil. Therefore, we must know how to cultivate the soil before we begin planting seed that their hearts are not ready to receive.
The Bible often uses agricultural imagery to portray the dynamic process of evangelism. Crops do not simply “happen”—reaping a harvest is the outcome of a lengthy series of events that cannot be bypassed or overlooked. Unless the ground is cleared and plowed it will not be ready to receive the seed. You must deal with the soil (heart) before you can plant seeds.
This is often shown in Jesus’ ministry. He dealt with the physical issues of people before dealing with the spiritual needs. When dealing with the physical issues it broke up the fallow ground of the heart which prepared them to hear the Word of the Lord. For instance, the woman caught in adultery. He dealt with the issue at hand which was she was about to be stoned to death. After dealing with that issue, then He told her “…now go and sin no more.” Do you think her heart was ready for the seed after that experience?
You cannot sow seed into dead dirt and expect growth. You don’t need to spend much time, but a little effort every season to revive your soil in pots and garden beds will reap BIG rewards. Just like we thrive on a nutrient-dense diet in a stress-free environment, healthy plants need food and a happy home to live in too! According to Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener, “If you meet the ‘needs’ of your plants, they will flourish, blossom and produce a bountiful harvest.” NOTE: “Don’t start planting until you ‘give back’ to the soil FIRST.”
In the natural, there are 3 things a gardener must do to ensure a healthy garden. We will cover one at this time:
1. Do a seasonal health check on your soil
a. It’s all about giving-and-taking: “What we sow, we reap.” As leaders, we must sow into the lives of those whom we lead. This is not just preaching to them on Sunday and during BiIble Study on Wednesday; but get to know them on a personal level. Sow into their lives on a personal level. If they invite you to a family event, try to go. Take the time to fellowship with those whom you lead. While it may not be always possible if you have a large congregation or group; make your presence known by sending a card or making a call from time to time. These types of acts will help to break up that fallow ground.
b. Make regular ‘deposits’ to build your soil’s health, because it’s a valuable, long-term ‘asset’. Then, when plants ‘withdraw’ from that ‘nutrient bank’ in the soil, there’s still a healthy ‘balance’. Once you have made your deposit of sincere caring into the lives of those whom you lead, it causes their heart to become viable to receive the seeds that you are imparting into their heart. I am impressed when the Pastor of the church in which I attend takes the time to personally honor birthdays and anniversaries each month. He doesn’t just have them all to stand and give a group happy birthday or anniversary; but he calls each of them by name (personal) and celebrates them. He has taken the time to get to know them by name. These deposits make a difference in the lives of the members and shows visitors that this pastor really care.
c. Nature has an accounting system too! Don’t expect your plants to make endless ‘withdrawals’ on a daily basis and still have a full ‘soil bank account’ season after season. If your plants aren’t growing well, it’s highly likely your soil needs a nutrient top up! As we all know, life happens. Life can take a toll on our lives. Many have been hurt by family members, by death of a loved one, by church members, divorce, etc.; and with each hurt or disappointment there’s a withdrawal of nutrients from the soil of the heart. It is the nutrient of showing and giving love, caring and being there for those whom we lead that will replace the nutrients needed for them to grow. This must be done consistently.
d. If the soil of a plant has poor structure, a pH imbalance or is depleted of nutrients, then there is no point trying to grow new plants until you fix those problems. As leaders, if those whom we lead do not feel cared for, loved, respected, and/or have a sense of belonging, they will not grow neither will your church grow. Plants that are shown care thrive. This requires a hands-on approach. You cannot nurture plants from a distance. You cannot grow crops from a distance. You cannot speak to the soil and tell it to receive the seeds. No, you must get into the soil, put your hands in the soil, to see if it is ready for what you are trying to plant. If the ground is hard and rocky the seeds will not grow.
In our next blog we will discuss what must be used to give the soil the necessary nutrients needed for a harvest.