I want to challenge a “seeds theology” that I’m afraid may have crept into the Church. I hear many people speak about short-term missions or brushes with the inner city as an opportunity to plant a seed, which may one day bear fruit. The “seed” is usually some part of the gospel, an act of love and service, or even just time spent together with the poor out of good intentions. The “fruit” is a changed life, ideally one that has been transformed for Christ. In I Corinthians 3:6 Paul says, “ I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” From this, we have developed the idea that, much like a watermelon seed, we can drop some part of the gospel in a community over the course of a Saturday service project, and expect that to yield the fruit of transformation. I believe the Bible to be true, so I decided to look at how long Paul spent planting seeds in Corinth — eighteen months! He taught in the synagogue, pleaded with leaders, went to the Gentiles, trained up leaders, and then he left. When Paul refers to his Corinthian seed planting, we should picture a significant commitment of time, energy, friendship, conflict, persuasion, leadership development, and sacrifice. We have become comfortable with a concept of planting seeds that is completely unbiblical. Four hours hardly is a sacrifice or a commitment; and, unlike Paul, we are hardly ever chased out of a community on the threat of death. We leave because another hobby has our commitment, or we’re off to “plant another seed.”
Criticism should always be constructive, that is to say, building something up rather than merely destroying something. I love the Church, and I long to see fruitfulness in our ministry. We, the Church, are capable of incredible impact. Imagine the effect of committed mentoring/disciple-making relationships with the poor over the course of a decade. At the individual level, nothing transforms quite like a long obedience in the same direction(Eugene Peterson). Our deepest, darkest struggles will come to light where Christ can work both on us as well as the people we aspire to help. For a community, lasting commitments are foundational for sustained health: exercise, diet, finances, marriages, spiritual practices are all made successful by lasting commitment. The Church and its constituent members must commit to the inner-city neighborhoods and invest their whole selves.
I had lunch with a man who came to a “seed-planting” Vacation Bible School in the summer of 2000. He developed a mentoring relationship with 2 boys that has carried into adulthood. The impact is immeasurable.
I challenge you to be a seed waterer. Don’t stop at being relational; DEVELOP A RELATIONSHIP, like the ones you already have. Talk. Spend time. Celebrate. Challenge. Listen. Walk a while. Weep. Keep up. Go to birthday parties. Raise kids together. Worship together. Water the seeds you plant! By Kirk Craig
Photo Credit: Shealy White