“The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.”
I am intrigued by Jesus’ many remarks, found in the gospels, concerning the topic of agriculture.
I am equally taken with the concept of treating Christian evangelism as if it was a political campaign, featuring Jesus as the dominant and exalted candidate for the highest office in the land, and his gospel as the perfect campaign brochure. These two ideas seem linked.
There are many parallels between Jesus’ treatment of farming, and our understanding of political campaigning. Most Christians would agree that when Jesus spoke of seedtime and harvest, sowing and reaping, weeding, watering, and pruning, he was referring to what he saw as an organic process by which his kingdom would grow and spread to all the nations of the world.
Jesus, the master gardener, said, “Once there was a man who went out to sow seed…”(Luke 8:5). When his friends questioned him about this story, his comment was, “The seed is the word of God.” (Luke 8:11)
I take that to mean the actual words that he himself spoke, as well as the record of his actions while he lived in Palestine, i.e. the Gospel. In other words, the Gospel itself is the seed he was talking about.
Seeds are plain and ordinary, right? You pick them up at the garden center in the spring and plant them in your garden. Or you re-seed the bare patches in your lawn. No big deal.
But some seeds are more valuable, and they come with a history. They are called heirloom or heritage seeds, and they have been developed over hundreds of years, perhaps by a single family who has guarded and propagated this particular variety because of its inherent value.
So for the purposes of this article, I want to compare the Christian Bible to a seed catalog:
- The Old Testament as a record of the history and development of one particular seed.
- The New Testament (Acts of the Apostles and Letters) as a “how-to” manual for planting and caring for this seed.
- The Book of Revelation as an analogy to the full-grown plant.
- The Four Gospels as the actual seeds that need to be planted.
One hundred percent of Christian literature, without exception, is about the seed, but it is not the seed. Apologetics, Christian history, Holy Encyclicals, the lives of the saints, instruction in ministry, books on how-to-live-the-Christian-life, conversion stories, exciting fiction, the coming apocalypse; these are all great and inspiring books, and thank God for them, but they are not the seed. (And nobody said they were.) This noble body of literature is entirely directed towards people who are intent on nourishing the seed that has already been planted in their lives.
Consider the factory worker in Flint, Michigan, who is trying hard to be a good Muslim. Or think about the computer programmer in Seattle who was told by her parents to avoid western philosophies like the plague. How about the successful businessman from South Philadelphia, who meets his family and friends regularly in the Hindu Temple? Christian literature finds no home within them. What bears repeating is that there are over 5 billion of these good people in the world, and they constitute seventy percent of the earth’s population. For them, Christianity is a non-subject. Their cultures preclude any real possibility of ever coming into contact with the gospel, either spoken or printed. There is an impenetrable spiritual barrier in place that not many humans can cross.
Not many can cross this divide, that is, with the notable exception of the humble postal worker, who can easily step over the barrier and plant a gospel seed as easily as dropping an envelope through the mail slot in the front door or into the mailbox at the curb.
The four gospels are the very seeds that Jesus came to deliver, and they were intended for planting. Sending any other Christian literature to our secular world is like sending pictures of corn to a farmer. He doesn’t need pictures. He needs corn seed.
I am of the belief that mailing out single, intact, copies of the gospel is a crucial step in the education and transformation of the world, one that could have a lasting impact on our civilization. I have created a small personal program to do just that. And I would argue that large-scale gospel mailing programs could be successfully carried out in almost every nation on earth where postal services are available. (See my post Farming The Land). In my opinion nothing else will do. Gospel tracts won’t do. Great Christian literature won’t do. How-to books won’t do. Internet podcasts won’t do. I would like to be a sower of real seed, seed that will take root and grow.
There is a question looming in my mind: Is sending out copies of the gospel a waste of my time? I don’t really know the answer to that question, but I’ve decided to go ahead with my program despite my own doubts, based solely on some old scripture passages that I have admittedly interpreted to suit my own purposes:
- “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)
This passage is most reassuring and would seem to indicate that my program cannot fail. Lord, help my unbelief!
- The Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:3-9)
The Parable of the Sower is so important in the gospels that it is repeated six times (twice in Matthew, twice in Mark, and twice in Luke). In the story, Jesus throws his seed out indiscriminately and stands back to see what might happen. Some of the seed takes hold and produces prodigiously, while some of the seed does not fare so well. Interestingly, Jesus seems to expect 100% germination, while allowing that only about 25% of the seed will mature.
And paraphrasing some other encouraging words of Jesus:
- “Don’t bother to weed.” (Matt. 13:24-30)
- “Don’t fret over your crop. Just leave it alone.” (Mark 4:26-29)
- “That tiny little seed you are planting will be the biggest crop in your field.” (Mark 4:30-32)
Finally, Jesus’ concept of farming includes the possibility for exponential growth. Jesus predicted that some of those seeds could produce as much as 30, or 60, or 100 fold return. Best to wait and see before getting carried away! But I am eager to observe the outcome of my small gospel-planting project. My hope is that at least some of those who read the actual gospel will modify their way of thinking about Jesus, and believe in the possibility of a world completely immersed in his divine and passionate love.
To mix my metaphors once again, I would like to see many people cast their vote in favor of Jesus, and cultivate his love in their hearts.
My next post, Political Baby Steps, describes some of my thoughts on Jesus’ political campaign.