Can you see the seed ?
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds”.
Jesus’ words are categorical – unless a seed dies, it cannot multiply. This statement becomes even more pungent when you consider that they were spoken a short while before his own death, a death that He intentionally and willingly died for the life of countless others.
Now this is so very different from how we imagine our lives will impact the world! The ‘seed’ multiplies by completely disappearing from the scene! Our own models of increase, have us very much at the centre of the stage. We don’t plan for or even desire to perform a ‘disappearing act’. in fact what we want is the very opposite. Our multiplication model would look something like this (see figure)
Here we are at the centre with arrows flowing outward from us; each arrow representing a person or an endeavor whose ‘success’ we believe we’ve contributed to. The more ‘arrows’ we can count ( trace back to ourselves), the greater the impact we’d say we have. So in this scheme of things, ‘acknowledgement’ becomes essential – for how else are we to count the ‘arrows’?
Recently, my husband was reading up on the history of missions in India and he came across a name – Anthony Groves. Have you heard of him? I certainly hadn’t until that point. But you might have heard of his more famous brother -in-law, George Muller? Did you know, it was Anthony Groves’ ideas that impacted George Muller and these in turn impacted the choices of a man called Hudson Taylor? The excerpt I was reading said, ” A number of Groves’s closest friends became leading figures in circles soon to be known as Brethren, or Plymouth Brethren. After leaving Britain in 1829, his ongoing influence in this movement was mediated largely through his brother-in-law George Muller, and is reflected in the principles adopted by the latter in his church leadership and in his support of missionaries for more than half a century. One of those influenced by Muller was the young Hudson Taylor, whose financial support during his early years came almost entirely from Groves’s personal friends among the Brethren
So this multiplication model looks like….
The ‘seed’ in this short chain disappears and is forgotten till God resurrects it from its death to give it the praise it deserves. The article, I was reading ends with these words: “Described twenty years ago as a “neglected missiologist”, and largely unknown today, his significance might seem somewhat negligible, but to Groves we can trace back ideas that stimulated the birth of a new generation of missions following what have been called “faith principles”. These included Brethren initiatives in many countries in addition to numerous interdenominational “faith missions” inspired by the example of Hudson Taylor. With some justification, Groves has been called the “father of faith missions”. Nevertheless, his idea of using the New Testament as a practical manual of missionary methods was taken up with greatest effect not by Anglo-American missionaries but by the leaders of some remarkable indigenous movements. Notable among these was his own disciple John Christian Arulappan and, at a later date, Bakht Singh and Watchman Nee, all of whom had direct or indirect links with him . Our research concludes that the primitivist missiology of Anthony Norris Groves exerted a significant radical influence on Protestant mission in the nineteenth century, and indeed to the present day, for his ideas find many points of contact with current missiological thinking. ”
To return to the thought I started out with, ‘multiplication’ God’s way appears to play out quite differently from the way we think it ought to work. The significance of this for me is not so much that ‘the credit rolls’ may play well after our lifetimes (certainly a thought worth chewing on), but rather the role and the purpose of the seed itself… .which is to ‘disappear’. This means that others may eat off the fruit of ‘our’ tree, and may never even recognize us as the seed that birthed it.. and conversely, only God knows ‘the seeds’ down the ages which have contributed to fruit in our own lives – like Anthony Groves’s life illustrates, there are some we can name, and others we don’t have a clue about. Only eternity will shed light on these things. This of course changes the way I measure ‘how many lives I’ve touched” but more importantly it changes my whole approach to ‘giving’.
If God’s prescribed way (and going by Jesus’ teaching, His only way) to multiplication is through the death of the seed, then giving can no longer be a ‘me-centered, ‘approval -hungry’ exercise. The focus then, to quote John the Baptist’s words is to decrease that someone else may increase. In other words, we pour ourselves into someone’s life and then intentionally bow out that they may receive the applause! Perhaps this is increase Jesus’ way..the ‘kingdom way’. So many of the word-pictures He left us point to that – salt dissolves into food, yeast merges into dough, the seed dies unseen under the earth -giving no man the glory, but God alone.