Mission Field Metaphors (2)
Welcome to the PMF Workshop for October, 2023. I’m your host, T. M. Moore. Each month we provide teaching, encouragement, activities, and resources to help you in working your Personal Mission Field so that you can become more consistent and effective in realizing the presence, promise, and power of God’s Kingdom in your daily life.
In this series we’re looking at Biblical metaphors that have a bearing on our work in our Personal Mission Field. One of the most persistent of these likens our Personal Mission Field to a garden. We see this image in, for example, Mark 4.1-9 and 13-20; Luke 13.6-9; and 1 Corinthians 3.5-7. Most of us are familiar with the kind of work that goes into creating a beautiful or fruitful garden. Jesus knew this, and so His use of the garden metaphor can be instructive to us as we continue trying to improve the work He has assigned to each of us in our Personal Mission Field. This month’s workshop is entitled, “Garden.” Our text is 1 Corinthians 3.5-7: “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.”
More than sowing, but not less
A well-tended garden can be a source of much beauty and many wonderful fruits. But bringing a garden to beauty and fruitfulness requires a good bit of attention. Sowing the seed—or planting the seedlings—is just the first step. If that’s all we do, our garden will soon be overrun with weeds and pests and we’ll have nothing to show of beauty or fruit.
Besides sowing you have to make sure your garden gets enough water and sunlight, the soil is occasionally aerated or refurbished, weeds and pests are controlled, and any dead growth on your plants is removed. It’s an ongoing task, but if we stay at it, we will be more likely to realize some of that beauty and fruitfulness we imagined when we first turned over the soil.
Your Personal Mission Field is a bit like that, as Jesus and Paul observed. Of course, we want everyone in our Personal Mission Field to hear the Good News about Jesus. To that end, we consider the best ways of sowing our entire field with the Gospel. Conversation is a good place to begin, but we can also invite people to church, share books or other kinds of reading with them, bring them into our group of believing friends, or send them to a website or video where other sowers can reach out to them with the Good Seed of the Kingdom.
But we can’t just sow. We must treat our Personal Mission Field like a garden and give it the attention it needs if it’s going to be a thing of beauty and fruitfulness.
But what does that entail?
Preparing the soil
I’ve often wondered, reflecting on the parable of the four soils in Mark 4, whether the gardener might have done a little more to make that soil productive. He could have pulled out some of the weeds, broken up or removed the rocks, and maybe even posted a scarecrow or one of those plastic owls to keep the birds away. Had he done those things, he would have had more good soil to produce a harvest.
We need to consider what it means for us to “prepare the soil” in our own “gardens”—our Personal Mission Fields. Most importantly, this entails working at relationships of love and caring. Learn and use the names of the people in your Personal Mission Field. Take an interest in them. Be a good listener. Offer to pray and follow-up on prayer requests. Look for ways to encourage or assist them, or just to share a bit of your own joy in the Lord. The rocky, weedy hearts of our unbelieving—and some believing—friends can be softened by love and interest, and this is part of what we need to do in “preparing the soil” of our Personal Mission Fields. Above all, however, praying faithfully for the people in our “garden”—believers and unbelievers alike—can help to bring God’s Spirit into the soil preparation effort that must be part of working our Personal Mission Fields.
But there’s more
Additionally, having sown the Good Seed to the people around us, we should keep in touch and be available to serve them as needs or opportunities arise. Part of that will involve refreshing the soil of their hearts with gestures of love and words of encouragement, as well as making sure they get enough light from the Word of God to activate the Seeds we have sown. Don’t be shy about sharing what you’re learning from Scripture, asking others to consider this or that verse, and especially encouraging them to get into the Word themselves. Turn on the sprinkler for the waters of grace to refresh the people in your Personal Mission Field whenever you are with them.
If they come upon difficult questions, or if it becomes apparent that some tare of unbelief or wickedness is trying to set up in their lives, you may need to be ready with an answer—or at least, willing to find one—or a gentle warning for those you are seeking to nurture for beauty and fruitfulness in the Lord. When you discover something contrary to health and growth—some idea or notion or practice—lead with a question, not an accusation. Ask about why they believe such a thing. Or how they think that practice is going to help them in loving God and their neighbors. Ask, then listen, come alongside, and let the Spirit of grace and truth work through you.
We have to work at being good gardeners, just as we have to work at making our Personal Mission Fields a true reflection of the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. We can’t change people, of course. But we must do all that we can so that by every means others might find in relationship with us an escape the ruinous environment and atmosphere of our unbelieving age, and see Jesus in all our words and deeds.
Here are some activities you can practice and resources to help you in working your Personal Mission Field.
- Again, make sure your Personal Mission Field is updated, and you have included in your Personal Mission Field worksheet any new people God has brought into your sphere. Keep your map with you, so you can take it out and pray for the people you see throughout the day.
- What “fruit” are you hoping to see come forth in your “garden”? How much of that fruit is evident in your own life?
- Make a point, all this month, to commend people in your Personal Mission Field any time you see some evidence of the beauty of the Lord or the fruit of His Spirit. Such commendations are like pruning a plant: They help to bring forth more fruit.
- Go to our bookstore and order a free copy of our book, Small Stuff. Here you’ll be encouraged to consider how every small thing in your life—gestures, helps, and conversations—can be used by God to bless others and glorify Himself. Order your free copy by clicking here.
- Need a refresher on grace and its power to work in your life? Go to our bookstore and order a free copy of our book, Grace for Your Time of Need.
That’s it for this month’s Personal Mission Field Workshop. Until next month, for the Fellowship of Ailbe, this has been T. M. Moore.
Support for Personal Mission Field Workshop comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers and listeners to share financially in our work. If this workshop was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.