by Ben Klaus
NOVI, MI – As a “newbie” at Legacy Church, I have been thinking a lot about planting. To be clear, I am not good at planting. I know this because of my agricultural background from the countryside of Wisconsin, where I grew up. Back in high school and college, I worked a job at a plant nursery. This taught me a lot about life and agriculture and convinced me that ministry was infinitely superior to farming. However, I did not realize that ministry and farming are the same thing!
The Bible has a lot to say about the relationships between agriculture and ministry. There are six important connections between agriculture and ministry, so let me step through the biblical guide to spiritual planting. People plant crops for a reason. They have a reasonable expectation that there will eventually be a harvest, and the harvest will make all of their horticultural efforts worthwhile. It is exactly the same in ministry- we believe that one day there will be a harvest, and our harvest will be worthwhile. So we plant with the harvest in view.
With this in mind, the Bible lays out six important steps to spiritual planting:
Plant good seed. In Mark 4:14, Jesus explains that the seed which the gospel worker plants is the word of God. The kind of seed we plant will ultimately produce the kind of fruit we harvest. To the serious student of the Scriptures, this seems like an obvious truth. But we live in a time when churches are planting all kinds of other seeds; seeds of good works, seeds of self-help, seeds of charisma, and in many cases, seeds of pragmatism. The goal of gospel seed-planting must not be so shallow as to merely compel people to fill the seats of our churches. Rather, our goal is to see people truly regenerated by grace through faith, and thus become true disciples of Jesus Christ. As Paul points out emphatically in Romans 10, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. The seed is the WORD.
Plant in good soil. In the parable of the sower in Mark 4, Jesus explains that the soil represents the different kinds of hearts where the Scripture seed falls. Some will accept the seed, and some will reject it. But when we cross-reference this agricultural concept with Psalm 1, we discover that the soil may also be the word of God! The one who is planted and rooted in the word will be the one to grow strong and fruitful. As ministers of the gospel, we have no power over the hearts of men, other than our relentless prayers on their behalf. But we certainly can choose to be Bible-saturated ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ; and this choice largely determines the fruit we will harvest in years to come.
Weed and water the field. Jesus alludes to this principle again in Mark 4:18, and I learned this the hard way from my agricultural background. The gospel minister must not only plant the seed, but he must also nurture an environment where gospel faith may blossom. We see this again in Jude 20-21. The gospel minister cannot create faith; this is the work of God. But we may create a positive environment for faith to flourish, so we must go about weeding and watering. False teaching and distractions must be removed, so that the gospel may take root and grow without harmful impediments.
Remove parasitic insects and animals. Jesus alludes to this principle by his comment regarding the birds of the air in Mark 4:4 and 15. Desirable plants compete not only with weeds, but also insects and vermin. Many gardeners may put out a scarecrow in their garden, to scare off the birds; others use pesticides on their plants, to keep away parasitic bugs. It is very disheartening to grow strong and fruitful plants, then discover that the harvest has been eaten by deer or rabbits! So there is a constant defense of the integrity of the harvest.
Be patient. Jesus doesn’t explain this point directly, but it is a self-evident principle of farming: a farmer never plants one day and harvests the next! There must always be significant time involved; for plants, this usually takes many months. But people move at a slower pace than plants. In fact, gospel outreach has actually been handicapped in many areas because ministers of the gospel tend to be impatient. We want our fruit, and we want it now! Because of our desire for instant results, the substance of the gospel has been altered; and many have turned to pragmatic, self-centered means to create the illusion of fruit. But illusion and substance are very different things.
Finally, harvest with gratitude. Paul stated this point most clearly in Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” In light of the Great Commission, this promise is actually an absolute guarantee for the minister of the gospel. Where the seed of the word has been planted, and the biblical process has been patiently and carefully followed, we have a divine guarantee of fruit “in due season.” There will be a reaping. There are always those whom God is calling and drawing, and we will be blessed to help them take the final step into the kingdom of God.
Harvest time is what this is all about! But to get there, no step can be skipped. We cannot speed up the process, we cannot skip steps, we cannot ignore our plot of ground, we cannot rest on our laurels; we have got to keep working, with biblical tools and biblical process and biblical fortitude, until God graciously blesses us with fruit from our labors.
Right now, I am in a season of planting. What about you?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ben Klaus is the lead pastor of Legacy Church in Novi, Michigan. He is married to Rachel (14 years), and is dad to Matthew (12), Katelyn (9), and Christian (3). They are a family of musicians. All play the violin, and his wife is employed as a first violinist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. After nearly 8 years of ministry in downriver Detroit, God has recently moved Ben to a new ministry - Legacy Church in Novi. They have been there for less than a year, and are very excited at the gospel prospects in our church and community.