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PREPARE THE SOIL


By Pastor Nat Crawford


I love to garden. There is something fulfilling about preparing the soil, scattering the seed, watering, and then waiting for the harvest. Having planted everything from tomatoes, peppers, watermelons, eggplants, cauliflower and more, I’ve learned that gardening involves four steps: preparing, nurturing, waiting, and trusting. This is a lot like outreach. Let’s consider how…


PREPARING - You can’t just throw the seed on the ground and expect it to produce. You can’t just dig a hole and toss a plant in the soil. You must prepare the ground by tilling it and integrating proper nutrients and fertilizers.


With outreach, many of us were taught to remember and recite evangelistic pitches to unsuspecting bystanders. We memorized verses to throw into a conversation, even if out of place or forced. Rarely have these fallen on good soil. Good soil for a soul also needs to be cultivated.


Look at Jesus. Yes, he taught…a lot. But He also prepared the soil for the listeners by being present and helpful. He healed the sick, restored the broken, and loved the unlovable. He prepared the soil through his life and actions.


NURTURING – Once the ground is prepared, the seeds are scattered, the plants are placed, and it’s time to nurture for growth. Each plant is unique in its development, but nurturing involves common elements such as regular watering. It means protecting the plants by pulling the weeds (I hate this part.) and putting up shade or barriers to prevent an outside attack. It can involve putting products on the plants to ward off insects and diseases. And it means providing various fueling and fertilizer to foster healthy growth.


In the life of outreach, we also prepare and then nurture. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:6-9, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” We are called to scatter the seeds of the gospel and water it with our lives. How? In everyday ways unique to you.


At our previous home, we wanted a vegetable garden. But due to the layout of the property, the best place to put it was on the front lawn right by the sidewalk; it provided the space, sun, and water the plants needed to thrive. But it also provided an organic place to meet our neighbors. (Yes, organic gardening and outreach!) Multiple times a week, we would go work in the garden and visit with our neighbors! Our front-lawn garden became our gathering place to nurture hearts for outreach.


WAITING – Waiting is the hardest part of gardening. Plants grow on their timeline, not mine. Radishes can take as little as 25 days. Lettuce can take 45-60 days. Sweet potatoes take up to 125 days to harvest. We can prepare and nurture all we want, but in the end, we are not in control of the harvest. We must trust and wait.


The same is true for outreach. Paul told the Colossian church, “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:3-4). Paul knew that the process of reaching the lost was a time-sensitive and time-filled process. Knowing what to say and when to say it can be a mystery. Knowing what the results will be and when the results will come is uncertain. Only God knows the answers. But waiting patiently on God for wisdom and results is crucial.


HARVESTING – After weeks and months of preparing, nurturing, and waiting, the harvest can and should come. Though sometimes, we know that plants never produce. The seed is scattered and watered, but no harvest is realized. This is hard to understand, but God is sovereign over the plants. As for the harvest that is collected, we experience great joy and energy from it. That’s what it’s about. Enjoying the fruit of the efforts brings confidence and nourishment to our very lives.


We get no credit for the spiritual harvest. Only God provides. He is the Lord of the harvest (Matthew 9:35-38). And as Paul told us, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7). But when there is growth, heaven erupts (Luke 15:7). The harvest produces celebration and motivation to keep the garden growing.


Today, a garden in your front lawn may not be your answer to outreach. But God has you right where He wants you. So, what can you do in your situation to scatter the seed of the gospel and water it in everyday ways?

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