Friday, June 15, 2012

All-By-Itself Growth

In Mark 4, Jesus tells the parable of the seed that grows all by itself.  The farmer scatters the seed, then goes about his business.  The seed grows all-by-itself in ways that baffle the farmer.  When the grain is ripe, the farmer can harvest.

This strikes me as the opposite of how we normally act as individuals and as churches. We don't like to scatter the seeds we have.  We like to hold onto them, just in case. (Sometimes we even put a bronze plaque on them.)  Then we look for places where shoots are beginning to sprout and do our best to make them grow faster into plants that look just like us.  Never mind that we don't really know how that growth works -- the earth produces all-by-itself.  We would be wise to take off our shoes and recognize the holy ground where God at work, but we can't help but tinker with the watering can, the fertilizer shovel and the weed spray.  How much fruit have we lost because we can't trust God to give the growth?

Of course, this parable doesn't provide an entirely accurate picture, horticulturally speaking.  But it does say something about our work as Christians.  If we focus more on scattering seed, we can trust God to grow fruit at the appropriate time.  But scattering seed can be challenging.  We have to let go of things that we might not get back, including pieces of ourselves.

For example, scattering seed might mean:
  • Talking to someone about how God has changed my life.
  • Singing a hymn or praise anthem walking down the street.
  • Offering a room in my house or my church to someone who needs it.
  • Sitting down and just listening to someone.
  • Sharing where I see God at work in someone's life.
All of us can think of other ways we might scatter seeds based on our own gifts.  The more we focus on scattering seed at all times and in all circumstances, the more we are going to see fruit being borne around us.  Not all of it will be what we would have planned to plant, but all of it will be a blessing at God's heavenly banquet.

Note: Some of the best discussion of the all-by-itself growth described in this parable is found in the congregational development resources of Natural Church Development.   You can find them at or order resources in the United States from

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