Planting trees or tomatoes?

cycle of pine trees

We are still breathing this new year with new resolutions and renewing the unresolved ones from the past. Some of our objectives are very measurable and with a timeframe others are part of a process.

Many years ago I have read one plan from a missionary who was promising a certain number of people to get saved during the following year. I was still part of the group who believed in the “prayer of salvation”, so it was easier to track how many people are saved-specially in mass crusades or meetings. I have never been fully comfortable with that attitude starting with my own salvation: I refused to get up in the front to say a prayer of salvation with the preacher. I have seen people “pushing” people to get saved, by asking them to do the “special prayer” with them. So I understand that a missionary can promise a certain number of people who will get saved during one year.

Biblical, I disagree with these objectives for two simple reasons: 1) God is the one who draws people to Himself and saves them, 2) it is not any biblical arithmetic promise, numbers are shown as the result not the expectation.

Today with various trends in North America, where the sincere desire of believers is to see more people saved, discipled and part of churches is coupled with the western business mindset, makes the work of a missionary/church planter/pastor more difficult. Result can become more important than faithfulness and longstanding fruit. Certain objectives have different names, for example:

  • Church is replaced with church service. Instead of looking at building a community of families, we tend to organize attractive, successful events. So the tool become the end. If you have problem to accept what I’m writing, check the amount of time invested in organizing the events compared with other discipleship and evangelistic activities.
  • Lost are replaced with unchurched. How many of people I know have gone from one church to another! All kinds of reasons, but in church statistics we read at one decrease at the other increase. SO few churches want, aim and are working to reach those who never have been to church services. So church planting is more like a circulation of Christians and ex-Christians.
  • Church attendance and offering is what everybody asks. Many times you can find the attitude “Come as you are and stay here as you are” creating a very careful environment where certain moral or responsibility topics are rarely touched. Growing as a disciple of Jesus it’s something pastors have a lot of difficulty, so this last challenge bring us to the topic of this article.

Quick fruits. Low fruits. Easy fruits.

To compile a report to humans this types of fruit are more desirable. It also encourages the worker who in the end of the day needs some encouragement.

Don;t take me wrong, I’m all for easy fruits, those I don;t work a lot, but we all know that if we are reaping easily with joy, there have been others who have been sowing with tears. So the idea is that we all need to be reapers because there is the joy, accomplishment and applause. But without sowers, will not have a harvest so even the best harvester with best techniques will not be fruitful at a land without any seeds.

What I have learned in my journey and want to share with you in the end is this: As I walk in the path God leads, if I find easy fruit I pick up and rejoice in the process. If I find hard soil, I work to make the soil able to receive the seed and surely keep throwing seeds with the hope that I will be able to harvest some of them.

My challenge that I have had in the past was in the unfair scale of comparison (yes that happens): we compare harvesters not sowers. 

I want to see communities changed, not just scarce individuals, so I’m working to change the mentality of community members and leaders. I compare it with planting trees in a dessert land. I’m tempted many time to plant “tomatoes” knowing that in the end of the year I can present some fruit to those who ask. But, God knows where he sends you. If it is to plant trees, be encouraged and stay a lot with those who plant trees. If you are planting only tomatoes, think also for the future of the communities without God’s seed.

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