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Oct 06

Music, Missions and Gardening

Stemming from work I did with my dad growing up and the small garden he and I maintained, I’ve decided that all that work wasn’t such a bad thing and I actually enjoyed it after all. So, a few years ago I decided to start up my own garden.

The first couple of years, though, I didn’t invest a whole lot of time into the garden. And it showed. I got a handful of squash, a handful of tomatoes and that was it. The next year, I spent even less time in the garden and got even fewer results.

This year I decided I was going to do things differently. I was going to do it right. And by doing it right, I learned several things about gardening, but more importantly, I learned more about why Jesus kept referring to seeds in his parables.Harvest-colour-corrected-Cropped

Firstly, with a garden, you have to plan it. And there are various reasons as to why you plan. You have to plan what seed you want to plant, where to plant it and when. You have to know a little bit about each type of seed you’re planting, because some seed will do good with a bit of frost or shade, while others need warm temperatures and complete sun. Also, some plants just work better when planted next to each other, whether they help in pollination or natural pest control. Planning makes a huge difference in the success of your garden and it also makes a huge difference in planning for mission work, too, as I’m sure you know, and many farmers/gardeners begin planning their next garden before their fall harvest is completely picked. It’s a year round endeavor almost. When, where, and who to send are vital elements to a mission trip and must be planned carefully.

Next is the preparation of the garden. Clear weeds, break up the soil, test the soil to determine which nutrients are lacking and apply those necessary nutrients. During this phase, if you fail to properly prepare your garden, it could find itself gimped. Failing to do any of the above could hinder plant growth or produce frail plants with weak or shallow roots. You also create your rows or hills for planting during this stage. Likewise, if potential missionaries are not prepared, there effectiveness may be greatly hindered while away on missions.

Now that the garden area is prepared, it is time to plant seeds. This is where most Christians would like to start, and sadly, end. It is cliché now for Christians to say, “Go plant a seed,” and that is a GOOD thing, but without the steps prior the odds of anything coming from that are much slimmer. For instance, the percentage of corn that I planted in my prepared garden was about 80-90% germination, whereas the corn I chunked in the pasture (nearly twice the amount I planted in the garden) was much less. In fact, I think I’ve found one or two corn stalks that have grown from the seed in the pasture. As I said, it’s good that Christians want to plant a seed, but how successful will that one time saying, “We’d like to see you in church/small group/etc.” be versus taking the time to plan and prepare? It would be like throwing seed to the field with nothing more than a hope and a prayer. Will something sprout and grow from it? Yes, possibly. But will the odds be greater if you took the time and energy to plan and prepare? I believe it would be. Do I think we shouldn’t be throwing seed to the field? Not at all, as sometimes it works as I believe God has prepared fields for us and all we need to do is throw out seeds, but I don’t believe that should be our primary way to witness either.

The next phase, I’ve come to learn, is a surprise to not just myself, but to others as well. It’s NOT the harvesting phase. Many people assume that just because you made it to the planting phase you got to harvest. The thing with planting is that some seeds take a very long time to germinate and produce vegetables. Some may take as little as 45 days, but others may take up to 90 to 120, and in some cases it may take as long as 200 days to see results. In the case of fruit trees, it may take as long as three or more years to yield fruit from a single planted seed.

So, what are farmers doing during this time? They are maintaining their fields. This is the maintenance phase. During this time they are caring for their new plants that have germinated and weeding. They’re watering during droughts. They are making sure there are no bugs or diseases creeping in. They are watchful. Maintenance is crucial to the health of the garden, as it insures that harmful things are kept out and good things are kept in. A gardener who fails in the maintenance stage will likely have little to no crop at all. This is where I failed my first two years. Likewise, missionaries must be watchful of any dangers to people right on the cusp of taking the plunge into Christianity and must “water” them through discipleship.

Then comes the harvesting phase. The most fun stage of them all. And the hardest. Most people look at the harvesting phase and think it’s all fun and games. It’s not. It is fun in the fact that you finally get to collect on all the hard work you’ve put into it. At this point of gardening, you’ve invested 5, 6, 7 or more months of time into this thing. But if all you do is pick a crop during the harvesting phase, waiting-for-a-harvestyou’ll see something happen. You’ll see the harvest wither. Why? Because you stopped maintaining it. If you fail to pull weeds, watch for bugs or disease or fail to water it, it will eventually become an overgrown, infected, bug infested dried up patch of garden. You would have gotten a really good harvest in a quick time, but the harvest could have lasted much longer if you would have continued the maintenance. With missions, if you’re in that harvesting stage and you’re seeing people coming to faith in Christ, that doesn’t mean the hard work is over, that means, it’s just begun. In a garden, bugs love the fruit or veggie more than the plant. In Christianity, Satan loves to attack young believers, or bring down an established organization through scandal or some other means. Harvesting is fun, but it’s a LOT of HARD work.

Then the whole thing starts over again. If you’re a prudent farmer, you’ve saved some seeds from your harvest this year to reseed next year’s crop. Or you’ve already bought yours through a seed catalogue for the next year. But during your harvest, or during the end days of it, you began the planning stages again.

But during all of this, your garden wouldn’t have been much if you hadn’t applied one thing: fertilize. You can grow a plant in just about any condition, but without proper fertilization, it won’t produce much fruit. With mission work, if you don’t apply prayer, your harvest is likely to be low. You can put all the man hours you want behind something, you can prepare the soil all you want, you can maintain the grounds and the mission field with great intensity, but if you don’t fertilize it, if you don’t pray over it, you may not see many results.

One equation I have written on my white board in my office is as follows:

(F + I)

———  * G = UM

T

What that stands for is this: Focused intensity over time multiplied by God equals unstoppable momentum. I stole that from Dave Ramsey.

If you focus on something with enough intensity over a long enough period of time, and you will develop momentum. Of some kind. Sooner or later. You multiply that focused intensity over time with God and you create this momentum that is almost supernatural. Nothing can stop you it seems.

We must remember to involve God in all our plans. We may succeed if we do it on our own, but having the supernatural power of the Spirit involved in your plans will allow you to take part in what God is doing in His kingdom in a huge way. You’ll see things you never thought you would see before. You’ll visit places you never dreamed of going. You’ll meet people you never thought you would ever meet. Involving God in your plans is like the fertilizer to a garden. Allowing Him to have His way with your plans will yield blessings beyond anything you can imagine.

What does this have to do with music? A lot actually. Analyze your life, or your band’s life right now. Where are you? Are you planning? Have you already planted seeds? Are you maintaining contacts and a fan base? Or are you seeing a harvest coming from your hard work in your mission field? If you haven’t taken a good, honest look at where you are, it can be quite refreshing and give you a great focus for what needs to be done now.

Over the next several weeks and months, we’ll visit each of the steps above and analyze how each of us can in our own lives take part in those steps in our current mission fields. If you’re a band, we’ll explore ways you can prepare your fields; if you’re a fan, we’ll look at ways you can harvest fields. I’m excited to share my thoughts and ideas with each of you, and look forward to hearing each of your unique insights, as well!

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