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Gardening for Disciplers
By Dan Vis
March 11, 2019
Comments: 69

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...

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 Corn

Most 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:

Mark 4:26-29
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 Growth

Another 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.

Conclusion

Time 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?


Take the Next Step

Want to learn more about the secret behind the explosive growth of the New Testament church? This month's featured class is The Explosion Blueprint. Get ready to discover a step by step plan to transform your church into a training center!

This class takes 6 days to complete, and it's FREE through the month of March. Click here to learn more...

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Comments

Do 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 Dan Vis on 03/31/19
Praise God Kathy, that's exciting. God is good!
Posted by Kathy Rosenberger on 03/30/19
I have just had the privilege of 'passing on' bible application that I have 'taken in' through fast and after struggling to 'live out' the concepts, as an interactive sermon at church today. It has strengthened my determination to improve my application skills so that God's word shines through my life and has given me great joy to share. Thank you for your teaching.
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/29/19
Having a supportive life partner is definitely a help Carla, Marilou . But God's grace is sufficient. We just need to pray God will help us rise above these challenges, and perhaps even use us to draw our partner to Christ. Stay encouraged. Ultimately, every believer's walk with Christ is an individual one. :)
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
Excellent point Lesley, especially the fact there are 2 good reasons to manage our time well...
Posted by Lesley Noakes on 03/14/19
I think one of Satan's ploys is to get us busy with seemingly good things. We need the Holy Spirit to guide us as to what we should accept so that we have personal time to mature and also time and opportunity to reproduce. Think I have been too busy with church offices.
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/12/19
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 Patricia Jones on 03/12/19
I agree Pastor Dan, that an overcrowded life is probably the greatest obstacle. I know I need to weed out some things, and earnestly seeking God's will that I weed out what He'd have me weed out, not abandon things He wants of me. Clearly something has to go. I'm sort of at the stage of little plants that I can't tell from weeds and don't want to pull the wrong thing. I certainly need His discernment.   
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/12/19

Glad you enjoyed this Rae! And like your analogy about the grasshoppers and the netting. I'm comparing your comment with Patricia who both say you want to move to stage three, but too busy. Makes sense doesn't it? The only way to go to fruitfulness in ministry is to overcome the weed filled soil. The last and probably greatest obstacle. :)

Carole, glad this made sense though I would probably use the stages of child, adult, and then parent. There is no stage three without multiplication. Some 30, some 60, some 100, but always multiplication!

Posted by Patricia Jones on 03/11/19
Yes, the steps make sense. Never thought of the second parable as showing stages of growth. I would say I'm primarily in stage two and looking to be more consistently in stage three. I too often find my commitment to multiplication choked out by other commitments.   
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.
BLESSINGS
Carole
Posted by Carole Bliss on 03/11/19
As in the physical world, a baby, a child, an adult, it's gradual. I love that parable. We need all three steps to mature. I am now still learning scripture, but am wanting to share with others. Praying for Holy boldness.
God is faithful to us all.
BLESSINGS
Carole
Posted by Rae Robinson on 03/11/19
Loved monday's memo on gardening desciples! I think I've been jumping around all 3 stages over the years but now in stage 2 mostly. Life sure keeps us busy...too busy sometimes and we lose our commitment & focus. We need to pray every day for H.S.'s guidance & surrender our lives to Jesus. (fyi,years ago I had a small garden & I grew corn. All was well, producing tassles. I watered, fertilized etc, thought I did everything right. Then overnight, grasshoppers appeared & ate all the tassles. So no mature corn developed. Perhaps I should have covered the plants with netting for protection. Satan is like those grasshoppers & prayer is like the netting. We are so busy with the world that we lose sight of what's really important & what we need to do to fulfill Jesus's commission.)
Posted by Dan Vis on 05/15/18

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 Qing Ling on 05/15/18
I'm really appreciative of you recycling/updating old posts, Dan. These articles are gems, drawing out precious truths from the bible and making them really come alive/relevant to my life! The "crowding out" sounds all too familiar to me... I will say with Carole - Lord, help me learn it, live it, and SHARE it!
Posted by Dan Vis on 05/14/18
So happy our resources have proved a help Myrna! Glad you are here. :)
Posted by Myrna on 05/14/18
I am a spiritual babe, this program is helping me to grow,
Posted by Dan Vis on 05/08/18

Yes, I think you mentioned that once before Carole. Would make a great motto for every memorizer, and for every verse: help me learn it, live it, and share it!

We have some really big training programs focused on witnessing planned for the second half of the year. Stay tuned...

Posted by Carole Bliss on 05/08/18
I really like this message. I am studying more, and praying to live it out, and now I want to share what I know. Praying for Holy boldness. So I would say starting to pass it on.
I love this three step, I will call it slogan, it sums it up.
When I am trying to memorize, I end with help me to learn this, live it out, and share with others. Not realizing this is what this program is about.
Thank-you,
Carole
Posted by Dan Vis on 05/07/18
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
So many lessons we can learn from plants, aren't there Lynn? Thanks for adding this additional perspective...
Posted by Lynn Badger on 05/07/18
I am good at getting orchids to re-bloom. They need light from the right direction and the the right amount of water. I can see how I too need light from God's direction and need to be watered by Him.
As always thank you for the steps and ways to apply to our lives and help others.
Posted by Dan Vis on 05/07/18
You are more than welcome Diane!
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

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

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 Qing Ling on 09/17/17
I am finding myself in flux with many aspects of my walk with Christ. I don't think it's possible to skip stages, just like a corn cob can't multiply unless it first matures and produces seed. As a fallen human though, I find myself going back and forth between stages two and three often...sometimes areas of living it out needs more of my attention and passing it on takes a backseat...other times by the grace of God, living it out is going smoothly and I can give more of my focus to passing it on 🙃
Posted by Lynda on 09/13/17
I am new to the program, this my first time reading the memo. However, it made think. I know the story but I never thought of it that way. I never saw the relevance to my life.
I am looking forward to learn from the program how to share my faith, which I have never done before, always thinking of discipleship as the responsibility of pastors.
Posted by Laurie Wissink on 09/11/17
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 Barbara Davis on 09/11/17
Marion, Great harvest. Yes, to be a worker together with Jesus, reproducing a bountiful harest. About a year ago I fell and broke my arm and tore connective tissue in my hand. For the first time in my 70 years I no longer felt as though I were five. It precipitated a long talk with our heavenly Father about making the unknown number of my last years productive. Your corn harvest is an added reminder of the success of doing things His way in His power. May we all be found faithful to our high calling in Christ.
Posted by Marion Coppock on 09/11/17
Just yesterday I harvested my corn, from the 50 seeds I planted I harvested 6-7 dozen large cobs of corn. I wouldn't even try to imagine how many kernels in each cob. How I want to reproduce like the seed of corn.
I love this quote from the "Ministry of Healing"
Christ's method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy to them and ministered to their needs, and won their confidence then he bade them "Follow Me"
Posted by Barbara Davis on 09/11/17

These lessons are repeated over and over in the garden, but illustrated and beautifully repeated by the corn plant. And the longer I think about if, the more lessons there are.

First the original seed has to give its life in order for a new plant to grow. Roots are put downward into the soil to nourish and anchor the growing shoot which grows upward out of the ground. The plant must absorb a constant supply of moisture and nutrients from the soil, while at the same time receiving full energy from the light of the sun.

When the ear forms it has a head of silks. Every silk is attached to an individual kernel within the ear. That kernel will grow into a viable kernel only as it is fertilized through that silk, i.e born again. It can only be born again for itself, not for any kernels around it. Fertilization comes from a source, the tassel, i.e. the Holy Spirit, which is apart from and outside the ear.

After each kernel is fertilized it continues to grow as it is connected into the cob, i.e. Christ, and is now part of the ear, i.e. a body of believers, where it continues to grow until the harvest. If any of these are missing it will not ear, or the ear will be malformed, having mature kernels scattered among unfertilized kernels. (Drawing from another parable, the tares grow with the wheat until the harvest.)

The interaction of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is seen repeated in every stage of the plant’s growth.

Posted by Dan Vis on 07/21/17
Wow Qing, that quote stands out when it's lifted out like that. Worth tweeting! :)
Posted by Qing Ling on 07/21/17

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

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
I believe that I am in a place of maturation and so ready to multiply!
Posted by Marsha on 07/10/17
I have been through each phase of the maturation process and actually was actively working, making disciples for some time. I am currently enrolled in medical school. I have become so absorbed in school that I ceased working to reach others for Christ. As a result I feel as though I am just going through the motions of Christianity, no joy, no fulfillment. I fast and pray a couple of times a week with friends, but it is not the same as actively working to make disciples for the Lord. I am praying that the Lord will bless me with a fellow student on campus to begin studying with. Please join with me in prayer to this end. Marsha
Posted by Colette Guthrie on 07/10/17
Dan thanks!
Posted by Sherry Olson on 07/10/17
I see myself in the maturation phase, I need to identify or figure out a plan on how to use my gifts in the multiplication phase.
Still trying to stay consistent and focused on my memorization of the word, I feel like I am memorizing, but not doing the meditating that I need to...
I feel like the cares of this world keep me distracted too much of the time and I find distractions at home keeping me from delving into the word at night.
Help me and strength me Lord!
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/10/17
Memorizing, Colette. Actually we've organized the journey into Memorization, Maturation, Multiplication.
Posted by Colette Guthrie on 07/10/17

Hi Dan,

I see modelling and ministering... what's the 3rd M?

Colette

Posted by Carole Bliss on 07/10/17

Thank-you for this message. I am praying as to what HE wants me to do. I just sent this material to my Pastor, I think of my Grandchildren, and how I want to help them to memorize scripture, with their sharp young minds. Its clear to me, this is what we all need.
Thanks again,

Carole

Posted by Kendra Jumbo on 07/10/17
I am encouraged to keep growing. Time indeed is short and such time is also needed to make disciples. God bless you Dan.
Posted by Clarris Magadza on 07/09/17
Thank you for another great lesson. Just thinking to myself; it is not possible to skip a stage. There can be no maturity without germination and mathematics says anything multiplied by zero is zero. You can't multiply when you have nothing.
However, we may be able to move on to the next stage before fully completing the previous one. For example, you may start to share the word even though you might not be fully applying everything in your own life. It will not be easy and it's not ideal, but it is possible... Just some random thoughts going through my head
Posted by Dan Vis on 04/11/17

Tanya, glad we have been helpful. All the best on your presentation! And we'd love to partner with your church if we can.

Great application Joyce. We will be doing much more training in witnessing in module 3. Very excited about all the new resources coming out.

Nora, that should almost be our motto: no shortcut in our spiritual journey. Thanks for sharing that.

Posted by Nora on 04/10/17
Thanx Dan for the tools and the clear messages presented to us which
If we follow God's way we will surely grow maturely and will in return
Be effective in witnessing for Him. No short cut in our spiritual journey.

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