What does a typical farmer need to do to raise a crop of corn?
First of all, he would need the right environment before considering doing anything. The climate, soil, and spacial conditions will determine what can or can not be grown in a particular area. These factors also determine what work needs to be done to prepare the land for planting.
Next, the farmer needs to have the right seed. Without kernels of corn, or some other seeds, he's not getting corn for sure.
Then, he needs to plant the seeds in the right season. Sweet corn, for instance, needs to be planted in warm soil (above 55°). Of course, in different locations the optimal time to plant will vary. However, he would also factor in the expected time for harvest, and for possible crop rotations (the planting of different crops on the same land for the control of certain insects and diseases, and soil health).
After this, he has to wait and put his trust in God, who controls the weather. Perhaps he would labor to keep the growing plants healthy, by cultivating them with water and fertilizer. He also may need to fight weeds and insects that threaten these tender plants.
In due time, there should be a harvest of some sort. Not all seeds will germinate properly. But if he does a good job, many should be ready and healthy by harvest time, if God so sovereignly chooses.
This process also applies to disciple-making and nurturing. As the apostle Paul had stated,
"What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow."
(1 Corinthians 3:5-7)
Here's what we know:
- The soil must be correct. (Matthew 13:1-22) The human heart is complicated. But people need to be prepared to receive the word of God.
- The seed must be correct. (1 Thessalonians 1:4-2:6; 2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Timothy 3:16; You can develop disciples without the Word of God. But they are not disciples of Jesus.
- The worker must be prepared. (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Timothy 4:1-5) With disciple-making, God expects us to be faithful in whatever season. However, the way we do it may vary from season to season.
- The worker must work. (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15; 1 Timothy 1:3-8; Ephesians 4:11-16; Jude 22-23) Battling false doctrine, error, and immaturity is hard work. But God's worker must not grow weary or faithless.
- The worker must wait on God. (1 Corinthians 3:5-7; 2 Timothy 2:24-26) Results are in God's hands. We may water, we may plant, we may oppose false teaching, but it is God who grants repentance leading to life.