Growth is rarely observed as it happens; it is noticed after the event. Parents do not watch their children grow; but grandparents who only see their grandchildren periodically, are immediately struck by the growth that has occurred, however imperceptible it may have been to the watching parents.
Much of what Jesus taught about the kingdom was conveyed in parables. One of the main emphases in those parables is growth. Jesus often likened the Kingdom of God to something that grows. After years of stagnation or decline in the western church, we are not used to thinking about growth. Those of us who have been part of the church for years are a bit like parents: we are too close to see the growth of that which we love. But take heart: Jesus is telling us that it happens even if we do not see it.
Jesus’ first parable was about the sower. We know he talks of wasted seed coming to nothing as it falls on unproductive ground – the path, the rocks, the thorns. Is Jesus telling us to expect the failure of the kingdom if three out of the four places where the seed falls prove fruitless? Is a 25% success rate the best we can hope for?
Some suggest that we cannot even hope for too much from the seed which falls on good ground. Some only manages to produce a thirty-fold harvest (the proverbial pew-warmers). Some hits the sixty-fold mark, so there will be a proportion of converts whose lives make some impact for the kingdom. And then there is the elite: there will be that special group of Christians who get into some kind of full-time ministry. But there will not be many of them, if such an interpretation is to be believed.
But this misses Jesus’ point entirely! Seed is sown with the expectation it will grow. The kingdom is likened to a bumper harvest. Its hallmark is growth.
So in this, the fifth chapter of The Treasure in the Field, we will think about the Growth of the Kingdom. Here’s what we will see:
- The strategy for a bumper harvest: Not top/down; not bottom/up; but in/out
- The inevitability of the harvest: don’t ask how and don’t do too much
- No quick solutions: growth implies continuity and process