This morning I read the parable of the sower from Mark 4:1-20. I’ve written before about this parable, specifically on the three things Jesus illuminates as those which “choke the word, making it unfruitful.” As I read this morning, though, I was struck by a simple thing: Jesus gives us a three-phase process of discipleship in this compact story.
Jesus describes the fourth soil, the one that produces the abundance harvest, as those people who “hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop.” Hearing, receiving, and producing are the three phases Jesus seems to be illuminating here. But there are all kinds of ways we can interrupt and abort this process. That’s what the other soils are showing us.
If we think back through the other soils, we’ll notice that each one aborts the process at some point along the way. The seed sown on the path doesn’t really even get to the hearing phase. The seed sown on rocky soil hears the word, but doesn’t properly receive it; they have no root, so when hardship comes, they fall away quickly like a plant wilting in the hot sun. The seed sown among thorns hears the word, receives it and so grows good roots, but the thorns around the plant make it unfruitful, interrupting the last phase of the process. They have heard and received, but aren’t producing fruit.
I don’t think it’s stretching the truth to say that most North American Christians are “third soil” people. They have truly heard and received the good news. They have grown some roots and don’t fall away when the going gets rough. They attend church services and small groups and try their best to bless and serve others, but at the end of the day they aren’t producing fruit. That is, there is no multiplication-factor to their lives. They aren’t making disciples and thus aren’t “producing a crop,” which is what a sown seed is called to do.
So what to do? Pull up the thorns that are choking the word. As I wrote in my previous post on this parable:
The implication is that you can be a Christian your whole life and never produce the kind of fruit you were made for if you don’t deal with the “thorns” Jesus mentions. All the potential to produce a massive harvest of fruit is there, inherent in the seed that has grown up into a plant. The “natural” thing for the plant to do is produce a crop thirty, sixty, or a hundred times what was sown, but it will not happen as long as the thorns are allowed to co-exist with the gospel plant.
In my previous post, I went into some detail about the thorns that Jesus outlines in this parable, so I won’t belabor them here. I just wanted to point out the three-phase process of discipleship I saw in the parable.
I’d love to hear from you on this:
Do you think that Jesus is laying out a discipleship process here? What are some ways that we abort or interrupt this process in our lives? In the lives of those we disciple?