“Listen, a farmer went out to plant some seeds.” Matthew 13:3
A more modern illustration could be a pastor went out to plant a church or a leader went out to start a small group. And just like in the parable of the sower, I believe that the success of that church or group or ministry depends on the environment its people are planted in. People need a healthy environment in order to grow. The great news is we get to decide what that environment looks like.
We get to control whether the seed is planted along the footpath, or on rocky soil, or among thorns, or in fertile soil. We get to control the environment the seed is planted in. If you want healthy things to grow, you need to make sure they’re in a healthy environment. How do we find out what makes a healthy environment? By studying the ingredients that fuel plant growth.
4 Keys for Growth in Plants & People
- Water & Nutrients – Water, as well as nutrients, is normally taken up through the roots of the soil. This is why it’s important to water plants when the soil becomes dry.
I believe water is like encouragement; they both are used to spur on growth. If you have a plant that’s starting to wilt, give it a little water. The same with people, they need encouragement. Keep in mind some people may need to be watered more than others. Some need very little water. I call these people cactuses.
- Air & Soil – Dirty air caused by smoke, gases, and other pollutants can be harmful to plants. It can also block out sunlight, which is also necessary for healthy plant growth. Healthy soil is extremely vital to plants. In addition to essential nutrients found in soil, soil provides an anchor for plant roots and helps support the plants.
How’s the air within your ministry? Is it filled with encouraging words or gossip? Do people genuinely love one another, or do they just tolerate each other? Is your church providing an anchor for new believers? Are others coming alongside of them to help support them as they grow?
- Light & Temperature – Plants also need sunlight to grow. Too little light can make plants weak and leggy looking.
The people within your church or ministry need the Son. I know that may sound corny, but it’s true. Your people need a daily dose of Jesus. What are you doing to help them cultivate spiritual disciplines in their lives? There are far too many weak-legged Christians walking out of our churches each week.
- Space & Time – Finally, plants require time. They do not grow overnight. It takes time and patience to grow plants, some more so than others. Most plants require a particular number of days, months, or even years to produce flowers and fruit.
People, just like plants, require patience. They grow at different rates. Some may jump in and start participating within the first couple of weeks at your church. Others may take years. Are you showing patience to those within your ministry?
These four things sound simple, but if you have ever maintained a garden, you know that couldn’t be further from the truth. It takes a lot of work. But if we can get these four things right, I believe we’ll see people who produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted.
In what other ways do you think ministry is a lot like maintaining a garden?