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A Perspective on the Parable of the Soils by Neil Cole

"One might find this parable (found in Mark 4) discouraging, as only one of the four soils actually bears fruit. I find it encouraging and life-affirming, because it reflects my true experience. I have now come to expect two-thirds of those who accept the message of the Kingdom to fizzle out and not bear fruit. This has given me hope. Why? Because I no longer feel responsible for the fruit, or lack thereof, in the lives of disciples.

If ten people accept the Gospel and only two bear fruit, I no longer babysit the unfruitful eight. Instead, I invest my life in the two. These two will be much fruit.

I am convinced that we have made a serious mistake by accommodating bad soil in our churches. When we see people come to Christ and then slip away, we assume a responsibility that is not ours. We would not take it on if we truly listened to this parable. We assume that we must be doing something wrong if so many people fall away from following Christ. We then doubt our ministry efforts and search for other ways to keep people. The results are often devastating to the local church.

Because we think that the number of people is a sure sign of fruitfulness and success, we do everything we can to keep people. We try to woo people to come and keep coming. What we end up with is an audience of consumers shopping for the best "services." We cater to this sort of thinking by trying to compete with other churches with a better show.

We compromise the life of the church if we keep bad soil in our membership. We make church a show that requires the audience to make little or no effort. If someone is willing to come to our service once a week for a little more than an hour and sit passively watching others do the work, then they are considered members in good standing, no matter what the rest of their week is like. One can be totally uncommitted to the Kingdom, distracted by the deceitfulness of riches and the desire for other things, and still be a member....

....Our churches are full of bad, unfruitful soil. A common refrain of pastors is that 80 percent of the work in church is done by 20 percent of the people. Reread this parable and you will understand why....

....We must invest everything in the few who will bear fruit. Life is too short and the potential yields are too great to spend our lives babysitting fruitless people.

This paradigm shift will change the way you do ministry. We must regain the lost art of wiping the dust (bad soil) off our feet. We might consider such a thing unloving, but this is what Jesus did. Perhaps it is indeed the most loving thing we can do. People must be confronted by the consequences of their choices if they are to get to the heart of their need for Christ. To do otherwise is not more loving; it is cruel, selfish, and counterproductive.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays His life down for the sheep. He will leave the ninety-nine in search of the one lamb who is lost. Nevertheless, He would never force himself upon those who are not interested, nor cater His message and ministry to trying to hold on to those who are more interested in other things. Although most churches today would be enamored if a young and wealthy leader came seeking salvation, Jesus was not (Mark 10:17-31). He gave the man some things to chew on and sent him on his way dejected. The Scripture points out specifically that Jesus really loved the man. In other words, this was the most loving thing he could offer the man (Mark 10:21-22)....

....I have always been amazed at what can happen when we simply plant the good seed of God's Word in the good soil of broken people. We have an expression in our movement: bad people make good soil-there's a lot of fertilizer in their lives."



Excerpted from Organic Church in the section on "Good Soil" pages 68-72.

Preview chapter from Organic Church

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See Related Articles:

Osama & Me are Close by Neil Cole
Church According to Jesus by Neil Cole
A Dangerous Question and Organic Church
What is the Church? Video by Neil Cole

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