To Make Disciples, Some Need to Plant, Some Need to Water
When it comes to being fruitful in ministry, we all wonder at times how to make as many true disciples of Christ as possible.
Walking new believers through the gospel is a great privilege. There’s nothing like it. And it’s not a one-time experience. Once you see someone come alive, it’s contagious. It’s so marvelous it becomes a way of life.
Everyone who loves God talks about God and makes him known. This post is for those who want to make Christ known, disciples of Christ.
Let’s look at some Scripture.
1 Corinthians 3:5-9
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. (ESV)
When I read this passage and think about its truth, its ramifications, and implications it seems we really can’t make a disciple if you think about it. Our participation in God’s work is like scattering seeds and watering seeds. Only God provides the growth. This is important to remember.
This should both humble and encourage you. It humbles by reminding us how powerless we are in making such an impact as this. And it encourages us to know we are partnering with the all-powerful God in his work of making new disciples.
What does it mean to plant and water?
We need to be sowing seeds—spreading some truth. If we want to partner with God in his work we must be sowing seeds. I don’t exactly have a formula to get a perfect outcome every time, but I believe his Word will never return void (cf. Isa. 55:11).
Honestly, reader, I’m sure you’re a pretty cool person. You probably have some charisma and interesting things to say; however, you’re not going to save anyone. Neither am I.
Jesus alone saves sinners. Sometimes he uses us to accomplish his purposes.
He saves us through faith in him. And “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17), not our personal charisma or efforts. He is able to save the uttermost, and it’s through faith in Jesus Christ. Our focus needs to be this, not ourselves.
When a new life becomes alive in Christ, it begins to wrestle with the truths of God. They’re drawn to God. An interest in the things of God becomes their focus, and nothing else really matters compared to their new discoveries about God. They’ve just encountered the Creator of the universe—God almighty. I mention this to remind us how significant God is and how insignificant we really are.
Now, seeds that have been planted need watered. I think this means helping provide continued nourishment. Are you feeding God’s flock?
Are people around you getting the nourishment they need to grow in Christ? What kind of encouragement do they need? What truths will help them understand God better? How can you pray for them?
We get to be a part of this nourishment in others while God provides the growth.
The discipleship process isn’t predictable.
Learning to sow seeds and water seeds planted in good soil is not something we learn how to do perfectly at once. It takes getting dirty for each disciple. It takes walking through the mess of life with others. And no one goes through the exact same things with the same exact background. So it’s going to require doing some new things, in new places, with the same old gospel truths.
James White has some encouraging words in his book, The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations? (Click title to view book).
In religious matters the two extremes are always present. There are always those who seek novelties in religious experience. At the same time, there are always those who resist any change—all change—at all costs. Traditionalists view any suggestion of variety or novelty with suspicion. “We don’t need to change anything,” they say. “Everything is just fine. Follow the old ways. Don’t be open to any new ideas.”
Believers have to walk the narrow path between these extremes. We are never to look for new “truths” that take us beyond the rich revelation God has already given us in Christ Jesus. Such an attitude demonstrates a deep misunderstanding of the riches that are already ours in Christ. At the same time, we are not to be so attached to our traditions, to our way of doing things, that we are unwilling to improve ourselves or our service to Christ. Balance is key (White, 2009, pg. 31).
I believe Dr. White is exactly right. He hits the nail on the head. We need some balance in this when making new disciples in new places.
Who needs the gospel?
Once we have met with God ourselves, I think the next thing is to ask who needs the gospel around us. As followers of Christ, we must first meet with God, then befriend the lost, and share the gospel with them. It’s our first and foremost. It’s what God is calling all of his followers to do.
Who needs to hear the gospel around you? Do they need seeds planted? Do they need watered—nourished and encouraged in the faith? Are you asking God for opportunities? Has the Spirit put a name on your heart?
Let’s keep in step with the Spirit and continue in his work.
I hope these words about discipleship can both encourage and inspire you towards making new disciples of Christ. Our time is growing shorter. We are closer to our day of final salvation. We are nearer to the day of redemption, so we need to be focused, diligent, fruitful, and watchful.
Let’s be on mission together. Let’s make new disciples, in new places, with the same old gospel to the glory of God.