(D) The Sower

Many expositions on the parable stress that there is nothing wrong with either the seed or the sower. Maybe this was the intention of Jesus but if the sower is the farmer who owns the field he must take some responsibility for the soil. Rather than blame the soil for a poor crop the good husbandman will take steps to improve it.

I am going to consider what a really industrious farmer would do about unproductive soil.

(1) Wayside soil.

A farmer with a footpath running right across the middle of a field might be able to re-route it. In this way the land under the footpath could be brought into cultivation.

It is very important for a church leader to get people out of the familiar way from time to time. That is why it is important for the elders of a fellowship to encourage young folk to attend Christian camps, conferences, festivals and evangelical rallies. Older members of the congregation may benefit from a church weekend away, a Christian holiday or a visit to the Keswick convention.

(2) Shallow soil.

A farmer with rocky outcrops in his field can level them off, break up the bedrock and add topsoil from elsewhere. The Chinese have created tens of thousands of hectares of productive land by terracing steep mountain slopes.

A pastor can break up the rock of ignorance by sound expository preaching. The stony ledges of unrealistic expectations can be demolished if a leader speaks frequently from experience and encourages his congregation to read the biographies of Christians and good devotional literature.

A crop growing on shallow soil can be kept alive in dry conditions by irrigation. There is no doubt that many rather superficial, frivolous believers are kept in the faith and produce some fruit because their lives are watered by prayer and the good example of a godly mentor.

(3) Crowded soil.

One of the ways to stop weeds smothering a growing crop is to use a selective weed killer. People who grow vegetables in their gardens or on their allotments will hoe out the weeds or pull them up by hand.

Christians undoubtedly need pastoring. Ideally a team of elders should watch over the church members and be prepared to intervene when a believer's commitment flags due to worldly preoccupations. If a new convert's attendance of Sunday and mid-week services is becoming intermittent he or she should be visited and counselled about their lifestyle. Weeds need to be pulled up to give the good seed room to grow to maturity and fruitfulness.

Sadly in many churches this does not happen. I was talking to a Christian friend recently. He stopped worshipping in his home church because he could not afford the travelling cost. My friend now attends a fellowship much closer to where he lives in Bury St Edmunds. He said to me, "No-one has been in touch from my old church to see why I no longer attend." We are responsible for our fellow believers. Surely we should intervene when someone's faith is in danger of being snuffed out by life's worries, riches and pleasures.

(4) Good soil.

No farmer has good soil by chance! Even the best of soil needs to be turned over, pulled about, fertilised and manured.

Many sound Christians will be made even more fruitful by appreciation, encouragement, loyal support, recognition and warm fellowship. There is actually a lot more to getting a good crop than just sowing the seed!