The idea for today’s lesson came from a statement by Jamie Beller.
A lot of people take a “Miracle-Gro” approach to evangelism. They don’t do any work, and then pray to God to make the church grow—asking for “Miracle-Growth.” And then they wonder why the church doesn’t grow.
What they don’t realize is that—just like with “Miracle-Gro”—there are other steps involved. You can’t just go get Miracle-Gro and spray it on your lawn and expect to have a garden. You have to till the ground, choose your seeds, hoe the rows, fertilize the ground, plant the seeds, water the seeds, and then you use Miracle-Gro on a semi-regular basis. There’s a lot more work involved, and Miracle-Gro is only part of the equation.
In the same way, you can’t just pray for the church to grow if you’ve not done any of the other stuff that’s necessary. I Corinthians 3:6 – I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. Today we will be looking at the way that the church can grow, both here and throughout the world.
But before we get into that, I want you to briefly consider the question, “why should we evangelize?” The goal of evangelism is NOT so we can have a bigger congregation here. The goal of evangelism is NOT so we can build bigger buildings. It’s not about numbers or prestige. We should be evangelizing because souls are lost in sin, and Jesus has given us the tools to save them! We should be evangelizing because that is the mission that Jesus left us with (Matthew 28:18-20). We should be evangelizing because we love other people and we don’t want them to suffer eternal torment!
How does the Bible teach that we are to evangelize?
Plant the seed (“I planted”)
- When you plant a garden, you have to decide what crops you want to get from it. If you want lettuce, you plant lettuce seeds; if you want okra, you plant okra seeds. But make no mistake about it, if you expect to get certain crops, those seeds have to be planted. It does no good to buy the seeds and then leave them in a bag or sitting on the shelf somewhere.
- The purpose of evangelism is to create Christians. Because of that fact, the seed that must be used is that which will produce Christians. To quote Jesus: “the seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). The word of God—without any subtractions, additions, or changes—will produce Christians. The word of God does not produce Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, or any of the thousand other denominational groups. The word of God only produces Christians. The only way to produce those other groups is to change the seed.
- But make no mistake about it, just like with a garden, there will be no Christians grown without planting the seed! Jesus gave the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:3-9. It began with a sower scattering the seed (the word of God), and showed how the seed fares in different soils (types of hearts). The seed took hold and grew (Christians began to grow), and in some of those soils (hearts) the plant (Christian) flourished. But there would be no plant without the seed being put in the soil. There can be no Christians without the word of God first being taken to them.
- Why isn’t the church growing like we want it to? Reason #1 – The seed isn’t being planted enough. “Are you sowing the seed of the kingdom, brother?“
We must water the seed (“Apollos watered”)
- If a seed does not receive any water while it is in the ground, it will not grow. This is why it is extremely important in drier climates to water the garden regularly. If you don’t water it, you’ve just wasted your time in preparing the garden and planting the seed.
- When we teach the word of God to others (planting the seed), we must water it as well. (a) This is done through lovingly teaching people and guiding them back to God’s word. (b) This is done by placing the emphasis on only what the Bible says, and not on man’s opinions and theories. (c) This is done by encouraging people to act on the information that is contained in the word of God. Acts 2 records Peter’s sermon on Pentecost, but notice that after proving Jesus was the Christ, it says “and with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying save yourselves from this untoward generation” (2:40). He planted the seed with his sermon, then he began to water it—to encourage them to let the seed take root and grow in their hearts. (d) This is done by helping them along to the point of becoming a new creature. It’s no coincidence that the Bible connects becoming a new creature with water. John 3:5 – Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” – being born is a becoming a new creature. Romans 6:3-4 – know ye not that as many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. – new life comes from being baptized into Christ.
- It seems that many times, those who take the word of God to others just say “this is what it says” and then they leave it at that. We need to not just be seed-planters, but be those who water it as well!
We must seek God’s help (“God gave the increase”).
- Sometimes, regardless of how hard you work to get a garden to produce, it fails. Two years ago, there was a total of three tomatoes grown from all the gardens belonging to members of this congregation. From this alone, we should realize that our own efforts can only get us so far. God is the one in control, and as such, we should always seek His aid with everything we do.
- This is the part of the equation that we might call “Miracle-Gro.” Miracle-Gro is something extra added to better the chances that the crops will grow and thrive. Miracle-Gro is added while you’re watering the garden.
- When we have done our part to share the gospel with others, we should be seeking God’s assistance. We must constantly remind ourselves that it is not about US. I cringe when I hear preachers say “I’ve baptized ____ people.” It doesn’t matter how many people YOU have baptized—because it isn’t about YOU at all. The focus should be on God. I Corinthians 3:6-7 – I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither is he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Pray for God’s aid that you plant the seed properly. Pray for God’s aid that you water correctly (not too much, not too little). Pray for God’s aid that the seed will take root and create a new creature.
But wait! There’s more to do!
- When you have a garden, it is successful as soon as the first green sprout appears, right? WRONG! You consider your garden a success when you have full-grown plants which are producing—That’s the goal of having a garden in the first place! If your seeds never get past the initial sprouting stages, then they’re no good.
- So, what happens if you stop watering your plants when they first sprout? They are going to die. They will not grow, and they will never be of any use. Instead, gardeners continually water their plants as it is needed, and continue to add Miracle-Gro regularly. Gardeners must tend the garden, remove the weeds and do everything they can to give the plants an environment where they can grow and thrive.
- It’s not enough to get people to let the word of God take root in their heart and produce a new creature. If we get thousands of people to become new creatures, but they all fade away without producing fruit, we’ve failed. This is the problem of trying to get numbers in the church instead of trying to save souls. Just as new plants require constant attention, so do new Christians. Some are more hardy than others from the get-go and require very little attention. But others need frequent care and attention to help them grow.
- Christians must be encouraged regularly (just like a plant needs water) to grow. I Thessalonians 5:11 – …edify one another. Hebrews 10:24 – Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works. We must show our love and care for new Christians, constantly encouraging them.
- Christians must be fed the proper nutrients in order to grow. Acts 20:32 – And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. We must continue to help new Christians in their study of God’s word.
- And we must also go to God in prayer on their behalf (keep God involved). How many times have you prayed for a new Christian, and said, “Lord, please be with _______ as he’s facing the devil’s onslaughts against him. And Lord, please help me to help him grow into a strong, faithful servant of you”?
- Keep the spiritual “Miracle-Gro” applied by keeping God involved.
The goal of evangelism is to produce Christians who will bear fruit and who will be able to spread the word of God to others (II Timothy 2:2). The goal of evangelism is to save souls and teach them how to save others. The goal of evangelism is to make heaven the most crowded place it can be!
Here’s the catch – you are a failure as a gardener if you refuse to even try. You are a failure as a gardener if you refuse to plant the seed. You are a failure as a gardener if you refuse to water the seed. You are a failure as a gardener if you refuse to tend to the plant after it has sprouted. Those are all things you can control.
Spiritually speaking, how good of a gardener have you been? Have you been planting the seed? Have you been watering it? Or have you simply been looking at the weed-covered field of the world and said, “well, if they want to grow, they know where to find me”? Imagine a real gardener saying that—it’s preposterous!
Jesus Christ came to this earth and voluntarily took on our punishment so that we wouldn’t have to endure it. You must let that truth take root in your heart and believe it. Allow it to cause you to change your ways by repenting of your sins. Make the confession of Christ, and then apply the water—become a new creature by being baptized into Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.