After being intrigued for years by the legend of Johnny Appleseed, the bubble now bursts as I find out that much of what I heard was flawed. John Chapman was born in 1774 in Leominster, Massachusetts, and became a minister and nurseryman. He did not, as the legend says, go in ragged clothes throughout the United States frontier planting apple seeds all over the place. He did move ahead of the westward bound pioneers planting apple nurseries with seeds he obtained from cider mills in Pennsylvania thus spreading the benefit of available fruit among the settlers. The legend had basis in fact. The fact just wasn’t quite as flashy as the legend. The principle is valid that to reap a harvest, you have to sow the seed.
Given the small beginning of the church on the day of Pentecost, the unimpressive background of the apostles who were given the task of making it conform to the prophecy of Isaiah that it would “be established on the top of the mountains, exalted above the hills; and all nations will flow into it,” it is difficult to see how God’s spiritual kingdom could spread. Of course, the larger part of the reason is that His blessing was upon it. But another is that it was God’s plan that the kingdom spread by the sowing of seed that had the power to germinate in good and honest hearts.
With all the experts on church growth – big churches, little churches, and middle-size churches – there still is no better plan than sowing the seed of the kingdom, the word of God. “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. And that which fell in the good ground, these are such as in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, hold it fast, and bring forth fruit with patience.” Luke 8:11,15.
The county agent told the farmer on the street of the county seat town, “Come to the meeting tonight at the courthouse and I’ll teach you to farm better than you’re doing it now.” The farmer replied, “I already know how to farm better than I’m doing now!” The difficult part is the doing.
The church grows and souls are saved when the seed is sown. Apparent growth that comes through gimmicks has been accurately styled by some as “swelling” not growth.
The most rapidly growing congregations I have been associated with grew because Christians were convinced the gospel was “the power of God unto salvation.” They were thrilled by the fact they had been saved and loved people enough that they wanted everybody else to be saved. Then, armed with their confidence in God, their faith in the power of His word, and true agape, selfless love, for their fellow man, they went to work to become energetic and optimistic sowers of the seed of the kingdom.
It worked in the first century. In Colossians 1:23 Paul said, “…continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and not moved away which you heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven; whereof I Paul was made a minister.” It’ll work today if we farm as well as we know how.