This post, renamed and updated from a previous post, takes an in-depth look at the New Testament strategy for disciple-making through two parables Jesus taught on gardening. As you read, take a moment to evaluate where you are in the process of spiritual growth...
Gardening for DisciplersBy Dan Vis
March 11, 2019
For decades, FAST has built its strategy for training on a simple three step process: teaching believers how to take in, live out, and pass on God's Word. These three steps correspond to the basic stages of growth emphasized in the New Testament by the apostle Paul and other writers in various places:
1. Spiritual Babe
2. Mature Disciple
3. Worker, Laborer
They also correspond to the steps followed by the believers at Thessalonica. In his first letter to them, Paul reminded them how they first "received" the Word (I Thessalonians 1:6And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.), then began "modeling" it (I Thessalonians 1:7So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.), and finally were "sharing" it throughout the entire region (I Thessalonians 1:8For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.).
Spiritual babes grow as they internalize Scripture in their heart. They become strong disciples as they implement Scripture in their daily life. And they become workers as they impart Scripture to others around them.
“FAST has built its strategy for training on a simple three step process: teaching believers how to take in, live out, and pass on God's Word.”
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Over the years I've shared this biblical process for making disciples in hundreds of churches, with thousands of people, around the world.
Take it in, live it out, pass it on. It's simple!
But have you ever wondered where the New Testament leaders got this strategy?
A Grain of CornMost of the teachings of Jesus took place in the form of parables. Many times these parables do not come with much commentary, but it is evident Jesus would often meet with His disciples privately to explain their meeting (See Mark 4:10-1110 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. 11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:). If only we could have had more of those explanations recorded!
In one of those situations, a parable is recorded involving a grain of corn:
26 And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; 27 And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. 28 For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. 29 But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.
Notice the three stages again: first 1) the blade, then 2) the ear, and finally 3) the full corn in the ear. I can just hear Jesus explaining the meaning of these different stages.
When the Word of God is first received into our heart, and creates that miraculous new birth we call conversion--it's like the germination of a seed. The blade pops up and begins to grow.
At some point it reaches a good height and something miraculous takes place: little ears of corn start to form, and tassles appear to make pollination of the corn possible.
And last, when everything is ready, the actual grains of corn ripen in the ear. The initial seed reproduces itself. It multiplies, and fulfills its purpose.
These three stages correspond exactly to God's plan for every believer. The Word of God comes into the heart--producing conversion. A spiritual babe is born. As he matures, the intimacy of his devotional time, creates a spiritual pollination. The disciple becomes fitted spiritually for service. And ultimately, the Word spreads to others, and the process begins anew. The believer becomes a multiplying worker.
Obstacles to GrowthAnother parable in that same chapter also illustrates these stages: the parable of the sower. When studying this parable, we tend to focus on the obstacles to growth in each kind of soil. But if you think about the growth of the plant in each soil, you will realize Jesus is teaching the exact same lesson:
Seed in the wayside soil never germinates, never becomes that blade of grass--because the seed is not received into the ground. Birds come and snatch it away.
Seed in the stony ground soil never reaches a mature height because there is no depth of discipleship. The word is not allowed to penetrate into the life. The blade appears, but no more.
Seed in the thorn-filled soil never bears fruit, because the commitment to multiplication is crowded out by other commitments. There's growth, but no fruit. It reaches full height, but fails to reproduce.
But the seed that falls on good soil fulfills its purpose. It germinates, grows to full size, and then reproduces "some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred" (Mark 4:3-83 Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: 4 And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. 5 And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: 6 But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. 8 And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.). It successfully multiplies.
Because wayside hearers fail to receive the seed, it cannot germinate. It fails to become a spiritual babe. Because the stony ground does not allow the seed to penetrate into every area of life, it cannot grow to maturity. It fails to become a strong disciple. Because the thorn-filled soil crowds the commitment to mission, it is unable to multiply. It fails to become a worker.
Clearly, this parable is describing the exact same process!
No doubt the disciples understood the meaning of these parables well, after countless long talks with Jesus. And in turn, they built a system of discipleship designed to overcome these exact three obstacles. They taught every believer how to take in, live out, and pass on the Word of God.
ConclusionTime has not changed the process of spiritual growth. Every believer who wishes to fulfil their purpose in life must follow these exact same steps. We must learn to take in Scripture, live it out, and pass it on.
At FAST, we've built all our tools and training on this process. It's the roadmap we've been following for two decades. We seek to help people memorize Scripture effectively, maximize their personal discipleship, and then give them tools for consistent ministry.
“FAST seeks to help people memorize Scripture, maximize their discipleship, and then gives them tools for ministry.”
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It's the core of everything we do.
And you now know the biblical framework behind it.
Take a moment to evaluate your own life. Where are you on your roadmap? What specific things can you do to move forward in your growth process? What tools and training would most help you grow?
At FAST, we are more determined than ever to disciple men and women. Time is short. The need for reproducing workers is urgent. Won't you come be a part?
CommentsDo these these three steps make sense to you? If so, which step would you say describes your stage of life? Is it possible to skip stages? What obstacles hinder you in your growth? Leave a note in the comments below...
|Posted by Becca M on 05/04/23|
|Dan, yes it was in BMC that I learned that verse. So thankful for the gifts that keep giving! 😊|
|Posted by Becca M on 05/03/23|
|Barbara that’s a great testimony. And Dan indeed it does make sense that when our hearts are filled with God’s word, then witnessing becomes more natural. Last night at prayer meeting a couple ladies were talking about being concerned if we have to go through hard trials. I remembered a verse I was memorizing, Psalms 16:1Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust. and shared it. One of the two ladies immediately jotted it down. I’m praying She will keep it in her heart too.|
|Posted by Dagman on 03/26/19|
|Partner in life is uncooperative, it's a challengeble and losing patients.|
|Posted by Carla Phillips on 03/16/19|
|Obstacles that hinder me in growth are the stress and care's of the world. Beginning with my job and a spouse who is not a sda. I pray and keep praying and trusting in Jesus.|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 03/15/19 - Coach|
|Excellent point Lesley, especially the fact there are 2 good reasons to manage our time well...|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 03/12/19 - Coach|
|I know you've been through ROCKET Patricia, so you have the basic process I use to determine priorities. :) All the best on becoming a multiplier!|
|Posted by Carole Bliss on 03/11/19|
|Over the weekend, I heard a wonderful message. Followed by our singing, I surrender all. We need to pray for God to be before all things.
|Posted by Dan Vis on 05/15/18 - Coach|
|Glad you enjoy these Qing. We have quite few important posts in our archives now, and I think they are worth sharing more than once. And if I can make them a bit better each time, so much the more!
Of course, I'm also thinking about new members. Giving them a chance to see these foundational principle is really important. And throwing in a few new ones now and then, when there are gaps in our content (like this week's post on Transformational Study) keeps us all moving forward!
|Posted by Dan Vis on 05/14/18 - Coach|
|So happy our resources have proved a help Myrna! Glad you are here. :)|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 05/07/18 - Coach|
|So glad to hear Joyce! People are signing up pretty fast so I'm anticipating a good group. This is something I've been wanting to do for a long time--and the date is almost here. AWE starts May 20...|
|Posted by Joyce Augustinis on 05/07/18|
|This is perfect. Just what I have been looking to do next with the verses that I have learned.|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 05/07/18 - Coach|
|So many lessons we can learn from plants, aren't there Lynn? Thanks for adding this additional perspective...|
|Posted by Diane Castanon on 05/07/18|
|As usual Dan, you make your point clear and easy to understand. Thank you!|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 05/07/18 - Coach|
|I'm sure you are correct Wayne, thanks for pointing that out. Of course wheat is also a grass and grows through the exact same stages. First it sprouts, then it flowers (forms a head with something similar to tassels), and finally the grain ripens.
Most of us readily recognize the germination phase (new believers accepting the Bible), and the harvest phase (workers leading others to Christ), but the inbetween phase where flowering and pollination take place is often neglected. That's where growth in discipleship creates such a close communion with Christ, the believer is pollinated and prepared for service. This takes place more secretly (Matthew 6:6But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.) and so is not always emphasized--but is absolutely critical--whether wheat or corn. :)
I think our AWE class is going to be an awesome experience in terms of teaching believers how to experience true spiritual pollination. Can't wait!
|Posted by Wayne E Smith on 05/07/18|
|Thanks for the lessons Pastor Dan. Discipleship is a growing process that we are encouraged to do. II Peter 3:18But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.. I have wondered about why the KJV uses the word corn to describe the grain in the Bible. John 12:24Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. says "unless a corn of wheat fall in the ground..." Corn was not cultivated in the middle east until after it had been brought back from the Americas. Corn in the English language meant grain. When the explorers found the native americans planting and harvesting this new grain, they called it maize or indian corn. Now we know it as corn and the original meaning of corn has passed and we view the KJV corn or wheat as maize or indian corn. Now, as I understand that corn is actually wheat, I can understand how the disciples harvested corn by rubbing it between their hands, Luke 6:1And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands..|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 09/17/17 - Coach|
|Barbara, love your insights into the growth process. I think we underestimate the importance of the second stage, where intimate discipleship makes pollination possible. Without it there can be no real reproduction!
Marion, amazing illustration of how dramatically corn can reproduce. This is God's plan for every believer, isn't it? Isaiah 60:22A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the LORD will hasten it in his time.
Welcome to our site Lynda! Sorry for the slow response. I was traveling all last week. But glad this reading got you thinking! :)
You are right Qing, there is often a flux between stages at different times in our life, and also between different areas of our Christian life. That's why consistency and balance are so important. Praise God for Philippians 4:13I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me....
|Posted by Laurie Wissink on 09/11/17 - Coach|
|Thanks for the posting this memo again! I absorbed more of the message the second time around.|
|Posted by Barbara on 09/11/17|
|Loved the two parables compared together! Hadn't read the one in Mark 4:26-2926 And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; 27 And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. 28 For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. 29 But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. recently but was excited to see it speaking about the Kingdom Of God - that when the harvest is ripe (I believe meaning our characters are fully fruitful) Jesus will come immediately! Interesting too, that sleep is mentioned.|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 07/21/17 - Coach|
|Wow Qing, that quote stands out when it's lifted out like that. Worth tweeting! :)|
|Posted by Qing Ling on 07/21/17 - Coach|
|As a recovering workaholic (busy mindset, not just relating to paid work), I find myself most challenged by:
Seed in the thorn-filled soil never bears fruit, because the commitment to multiplication is crowded out by other commitments. There's growth, but no fruit.
Matthew 3:8Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: is one of my favorite fruit related verses.
Thanks for keeping me accountable through your direct and encouraging articles, Dan.
|Posted by Dan Vis on 07/11/17 - Coach|
|Thanks for sharing Sherry, Marsha, and Valerie. Wonderful to hear that each of you are maturing and wanting to move more fully into ministry. Our current challenge, the Blueprint is a great first step that direction. Hope you have each signed up for it.
Soon we will be opening up Module 3 of the Journey and we have a couple more exciting challenges coming up focused on multiplication (both evangelism and training). Let's all press forward toward that goal!
|Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 07/10/17 - Coach|
|I believe that I am in a place of maturation and so ready to multiply!|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 07/10/17 - Coach|
|Memorizing, Colette. Actually we've organized the journey into Memorization, Maturation, Multiplication.|
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