Do you want your church to grow? I used to obsess over numbers, especially over the number of people we got into the pews on a Sunday morning. I was treating worship was though it were a 'show' or an event, something to which we had to attract people as "attenders", or worse, as "spectators". I understood our church's impact to be related to the number of "impressions" in the pews.
But after reading Jesus' Kingdom parables, I am starting to see the Kingdom -- and therefore the mission of the church -- the other way around: Jesus cares about the impact of the Kingdom upon the world, not the "imprint" of rear ends in seats (LOL). This first parable (The Sower and the Seed) holds one of the keys to understanding how Jesus sees the work of a local congregation: which is to sow the seed of his Word into the world; but not to just sow it any old place, but into the good soil God has prepared for it. We spend a lot of time 'over-broadcasting' putting the seed in places it just isn't going to grow!
From Claiming the Corner: Chapter 1: The Seed in Good Soil:
"This Kingdom parable takes us back into a common farming method in the ancient Near East. It is a method called “broadcasting”. Farmers would walk their fields with satchels of seed at their sides. Grabbing a handful of seeds, they would make a broad, arcing motion, broadcasting the seeds over a wide area of cultivated ground. So often when we read this parable we figuratively get “caught in the weeds” and think Jesus is concerned primarily with the seeds that do not grow, the ones that landed among the rocks and thorns. I know that I, and many of my pastor colleagues, get caught sermonizing on all the ways that we should all try harder to be good soil, rather than rocky, weedy, or path-y soil in the story. We imagine that if we just tried hard enough to be good soil, we could choke out the weeds before they choke us; we could dig out the rocks in our lives that keep us from growing deep; and we could chase away the birds before they eat us alive! Of course, like good cultural Westerners, we imagine ourselves as the stars of the parable: the seeds, who must prove themselves in a competitive world. In this way, we make the story about us rather than about God. News flash: we are not the stars of this story. Here is the key piece of information we are forgetting –– the farmer never intended for the seeds to grow along the path, or in the rocks, or in the weeds. That is not how farmers work. The parable is not about where the farmer did not intend the seed to go, where he over-broadcasted, it is about where the seeds were meant to go –– into the soil of the field that the farmer prepared, the good soil, from which he intends to gain a harvest. That changes the story completely! This is not a do-better story, or a work-harder, story. The star of the story is the Word of God, the Seed, making it into the environment the farmer had prepared for it. The side stories: the rocks, the weeds, and the path, are just to emphasize all the things that the good soil is not. So where is that good soil? The good soil is where the farmer, God, has prepared it in advance. It is where he has plowed and churned up the hard crust, removing the rocks and the weeds. All that work was done in advance, not on the day of the sowing. Any farmer will warn you not to sow expensive seed in ground that is not prepared. Here is the thing: there is good soil in every human heart, in the places primed for spiritual growth; often it is where people have deep questions, deep hurts and needs, and where the Spirit of God has been doing his loving work."
The good soil is located in the place of pain, both in individual lives, but also the places of pain in our communities -- where there has been that turning over and braking open of the soil.
Where do you see pain in your community? What issues facing families and individuals around your church, are like signs that read: Good Soil -- Plant Here? How might the loving "implanting" of God's Word and work bring healing and new growth to those areas?