Jesus’ Parable of the Sower recognizes some fundamental concepts of discipleship. In Luke 8:5, “a sower went out to sow his seed.” The actual planting of seeds will be looked at next week, but we first observe that the different types of soils are associated with the conditions of the heart. If the seed is the Word of God according to Luke 8:11, the four types of soil are then four types of human hearts, which receive the Word of God in different ways. Before even sowing seeds, Christ’s disciples then have a pre-work to do in preparing hearts for the most ideal results.

The discipleship stage of preparation involves coming close to people in friendship and service, showing that we care. This true human interaction with genuine love and authenticity provide the foundation for trust in the relationship. Too often this stage is bypassed in the disciples’ zeal and trust is never established. Frequently, church members give Bible studies and hold large evangelistic campaigns while they do not simply get to know and care for those in the community.

As individual disciples, we can prepare the soil of those around us by acts of loving kindness, by “paying it forward” (a movement where random good deeds are done and repeated causing a chain reaction), and by even smiling (in the right context) and being nice to people! This stage calls each disciple to embrace the role of compassion, sympathy, and empathy towards all those around us. This requires creativity, intentionality, and enthusiasm!

Preparation is also where our efforts for public relations and social services take place. In the Adventist faith, the role of health and the medical work are crucial and assist in soil preparation. Ellen White stated, “when properly conducted, the health work is an entering wedge, making a way for other truths to reach the heart” (Testimonies for the Church, 6:327). Notice that this work is not the full system of evangelism and witnessing, but it prepares hearts for further efforts.

Is this work insincere? No. It would be if we did not actually care or if we expected something back. It is merely a call to be comprehensive in our Christian witness and discipleship. “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me’” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 143). Not requiring anything in return for helping others does not mean we should avoid sharing the gospel. Salvation is still every person’s greatest need!