...also, check out maggi's reflections on midwifery and mission.
perhaps these analogies help us in the same way parables often clarify and navigate the slippery concepts and slick programs sometimes connected to missions and evangelism.
One of the things that I didn’t need to worry about was the arrival of the calves on our farm. The main thing that I remember my dad teaching me was that the cattle had to be very healthy, and if possible, gaining weight. The normal result of healthy stock and a good season was an abundant yield of healthy calves. This principle seems to apply right across all of nature - from fruit trees to pasture and all livestock.(There's More)
As someone involved now in Christian mission and pastoral care I see the same principle at work. Where a community is Christ centered, receiving good, holistic nourishment, and involved in loving their neighbors (seeking justice, welfare, and peace in the wider community), then the normal result will be “baby Christians.” In such an environment those who are gifted in evangelism will develop their gifts as they share God’s grace and goodness and point people to Jesus. The community will naturally grow in numbers.
When farming there was always special care for the babies. They were watched closely for their health and growth and sometimes, in severe weather, given shelter from the wind and rain. If they weren’t growing then appropriate care was given to encourage health and growth. We should understand that a new Christian can be very healthy but not necessarily mature. Then we need discernment to understand the difference between giving encouragement to someone learning about faithfulness, or if that person is turning away from walking with Jesus and their heart is in rebellion at the Lordship of Christ in their life. It is important that we don’t expect maturity in baby Christians - it will only produce frustration in those who are caring for them.
The Fruits of the Spirit along with the incarnated Sermon on the Mount are the normal result of a healthy, mature Christian fellowship. It is so important for those of us who are older in the faith to reflect accurately God’s grace and goodness in our lives so that we can be models and mentors to those who are younger in the Christian journey. I truly believe that if we do this well, the Christian faith is almost irresistible to those we nurture relationships with as they see something of the beauty of Jesus in our lives.