Most of us profess to know, or at least confess with our mouths, that the church is not a building or an earthly organization of people. After all, you can’t plant a building even if it is called a church so therefore it must be the people who are “planted”! And so (the reasoning goes) because the church is made up of people, “church planters” can simply take some of these people and “plant” them into a community and there you have a church. However, they may well be planting something which has originated from man rather than from God because in the Bible we don’t see church planters anywhere; only Christ planters! The Life of Christ in people is a divine work and sustained by God whereas the life of a church system must be planted, maintained and sustained by man.
Christ is Life. He is the Seed which produces Life. If we are setting up and ‘planting’ buildings, groups, congregations and churches according to this world’s definition, then we are planting something of this earth and we will reap accordingly. We know how true the fact of reaping what we sow is. We tend to get things backwards by planting what we think is of God and setting up the structure so that God can then bless it and bring forth life from it. But God’s way is to bring something forth from within us rather than create something external and join us to that; He is concerned first and foremost with who we are (the internal) rather than what we do (the external) simply because if the internal is correct, then the external is immediately taken care of.
Jesus said “Listen and grasp and comprehend this: It is not what goes into the mouth of a man that makes him unclean and defiled, but what comes out of the mouth; this makes a man unclean and defiles him. Then the disciples came and said to Him, Do you know that the Pharisees were displeased and offended and indignant when they heard this saying? He answered, Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be torn up by the roots. Let them alone and disregard them; they are blind guides and teachers. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a ditch.” Matt. 15:10-14.
We think that what we see – size, outward appearances and numbers – are important and significant; but God’s ways are not ours! He gathers two or three and says not to despise the day of SMALL things (Matt 18:20 & Zech 4:10). Man’s way is to try to make things happen for God by concentrating on what can be seen – the external. We tend to think that the internal will happen (and God will come…) if we set up things for Him and help Him. We think that the physical will bring about the spiritual, that outward things will have an inward effect. For instance we think that if we provide a building to meet in or organize some “fellowship times” (outward, external) then koinonia and ministry (inward, internal) will automatically happen. But it doesn’t work like that.
Anything which is of Heavenly consequence will result only if and when it has been brought about by God inwardly! If it were the other way around, then WE would be in control and not God. WE could make things happen; WE could bring heaven to earth, WE could indeed plant “churches”, WE would have a method and consequently WE would get all the glory! With God’s Way there is NO method, NO relying on ourselves or other people, only relying on God to create, produce, supply and maintain what is purely of Him.
One way relies on ourselves and others and the limited resources of this world; the other relies solely on God and the unlimited resources of heaven. One way brings glory and honor to us; the other gives glory and honor to God alone. Life can only come from within – from His Spirit living in us, we must be “born from above” and “planted with heavenly Seed” so that all growth and glory is for and from God alone. Jesus did nothing from Himself, He did only what He heard and saw His Father teach and direct Him (John 5:19,30 8:28) and how much more do WE need to know Him and speak and act only as we hear from Him!
If we plant anything other than simply Christ, we are not planting Life. If we plant our ideas, our thoughts, our dreams, our ministry, our vision instead of Christ or along with Christ, we are simply planting Self and not Christ. If we plant other’s ideas, other’s dreams, or what we think of as church instead of Christ, we are planting something which is of the earth and not of heaven. The harvest will ultimately be death and not Life. When Christ is planted, HE brings forth Life and He brings forth whatever expression He desires for that Life – HE adds to His Building daily (Acts 2:47). That may or may not mean that we see the results of that on this earth – what is seen here is not as important as what is true and real in the heavenlies with Christ! Christ and His Body are established in Heaven and when Christ is planted in our hearts here on earth, we in turn are planted into Him and our real Life is with and in Him Who is seated at the right hand of God – HE brings forth His Life in us and through us for His own pleasure and glory!
Are we prepared to labor and serve Him regardless of whether we see any visible results on this earth? “For while Jews ask for signs and miracles and Greeks pursue philosophy and wisdom, we preach Christ crucified, preaching which to the Jews is a scandal and an offensive stumbling block, and to the Gentiles it is absurd and utterly unphilosophical nonsense. BUT to those who are called, whether Jew or Greek or Gentile, Christ is the Power of God and the Wisdom of God.” 1 Cor. 1:22-24.
My children recently planted some sunflower seeds and we have been enjoying watching them grow and learning from them. Every day they are significantly taller than the day before. We planted the seeds and we watered them, but the life and growth from within them had nothing whatsoever to do with us. A seed will always produce what is inherent within it; whether that be good or bad! When Christ crucified is proclaimed and planted, then HE is responsible for the Seed’s growth and the harvest (Mark 4:26,27) and we simply do whatever He tells us to – it is HIS work. “What is Apollos? What is Paul? Ministering servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord appointed to each his task: I planted, Apollos watered, but GOD was making it grow and He gave the increase. So neither he who plants is anything nor he who waters, but only God Who makes it grow and become greater. He who plants and he who waters are equal, one in aim, of the same importance and esteem, yet each shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are fellow workmen, joint promoters, laborers together with and for God; you are God’s garden and vineyard and field under cultivation, you are God’s building.” 1 Cor. 3:5-9.
We are our Father’s Sonflowers, produced by the Seed of His Son planted in the soft, broken up soil of our hearts (Matt. 13:23). We always turn our faces toward the Son, we desperately need Him and depend on Him every moment of every day – we are His – totally and completely. There will be no growth and no life without the Light and Rain (words) of the Son falling upon our soil. Eventually He brings forth a flower which reveals the Glory and Life of the Son and this flower is not just for looking at, it bears many more Seeds from that one Seed which was planted… Sunflower seeds can be crushed to produce oil, or they can be eaten as a nutritious snack, or they can be planted in order to reproduce much more Life – but however and in whichever way they are used (crushed, eaten or buried) the principle is that the seed’s individual life is given up in order to produce something of value to Another (John 12:24,25).These seeds are precious, the plant (person) when it has produced the flower and the seeds, will eventually wither and die but the Seed which they leave behind contains the Life that reproduces and keeps on reproducing and is eternal and living!
The person who plants the Seed cannot make the Seed produce Life. That is dependent upon the soil and the Son. Our role as sowers is simply to distribute the Heavenly Seed and God and the soil are responsible for whether the Seed takes root and grows. Half of the sunflower seeds we planted into different soil and they grew only three inches high and then stopped growing; even though the conditions of water and sun were the same for the other plants which grew to a height of several feet. Not all soil (hearts) will allow this Heavenly Seed to bring forth Life and reach maturity. That is not the responsibility of the sower, we must simply plant Christ and allow His Son to shine and allow His living water to pour forth through us to others.
How is Christ planted? How is this Seed distributed? By simply allowing His Life to grow within us and be expressed through us every day in all things – He lives, we die. He lives in and through us in place of our own life; we give up everything and yet receive Him as Everything! Fruit contain seeds and it is His fruit in our daily lives that will reproduce His Life whether that be through our silence, our words or our actions – He LIVES!
“He who observes the wind and waits for all conditions to be favorable will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap. As you know not what is the way of the wind, or how the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a pregnant woman, even so you know not the work of God, Who does all. In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening withhold not your hands, for you know not which shall prosper, whether this or that, or whether both alike will be good.”Ecclesiastes 11:4-6.