And he said, "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come." (Mark 4:26-29 ESV)
Can it be that simple? Have we, especially in the West, complicated what is an uncomplicated and natural process?
Scatter and gather. Mark clusters together three parables of Jesus. (4:3-9, 10-20; 4:30-34). Their message is remarkably consistent. Seeds are sown, the ground produces plants and, eventually, a harvest. The principle of scatter and gather is universal. The results are not uniform, but the pattern remains the same—plant seeds to reap a harvest. Of course, one might choose to simply live off the land, but that is unsustainable. Eventually you move to another location, or learn to produce your own food.
In the scatter and gather principle, the seed (“the word”) remains constant, only the soil is a variable (4:15—20). Inherent life remains dormant in the seed. When buried in receptive soil, without any help from the farmer, the cycle life is triggered toward its predetermined course, a harvest.
Scatter and gather. The application is no more complicated than the principle. In missions we often use the analogy of harvest. Missions is the work of God, in partnership with the Church. The human component of the spiritual harvest is scatter the seed, or spread the Word. After initial contact, the Holy Spirit and the Word work in a receptive heart to produce fruit, or an opportunity for harvest. When the fruit is ripe, it is time for the next phase of human involvement, invite him or her into the kingdom of God.
Today, of course, engineering and technology dramatically increase the volume of the harvest. Bigger and better machines, soil preparation, and hybrid seed make agriculture a completely different enterprise than the one described by Jesus in His parables.
Likewise, we have technology available to us today. But, let’s not fall into the trap of attempting to increase our harvest of souls through improved methods alone. Like a single individual with a handful of seed, witness remains intensely personal. It takes a person to scatter by sharing the Word of God with another person. It takes a person to gather by inviting one to commit their life to Christ.
David L. DeGarmo (D. Min.) serves Global University as Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Theology. Along with his wife Ruth, he is also a U.S. Missionary. He has extensive experience as an educator, missionary, and pastor.
David writes an additional blog on a variety of topics. Check it out...