Biblically - What "Drives" Good Soil?
“Hey, you look great!” a friend encouraged Gary as he walked into the room.
“Thanks,” he replied sheepishly. “I wasn’t sure this outfit would work for me.”
“Are you kidding? It’s perfect,” his friend continued to affirm.
“Well, my niece, Anna, helped me pick out the shirt, pants, jacket, and tie. She said the tie pulls everything together. Even though I have a diversity of colors represented, the tie makes it all work.”
That’s true in more than just fashion. One thing can “bring it all together.” That’s the way it was for Missionary Paul. He said, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13) That one thing was what Paul worked for and that one thing—pressing toward that goal—was what kept him moving forward. “One thing” often can bring things into focus and help people make sense of an issue.
We see “one thing” in the Bible’s story, too. From early on in the biblical text to the very end of the Bible, we see one redemptive thread running throughout, leading to the glory of God. We know that the One who gives life and meaning to that thread is Jesus.
“One thing” drives the training and resources developed and taught by Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship, also. That one thing, the integrating factor, is a Good Soil Faith Response. Everything done by Good Soil comes out of this driving principle: that evangelists and disciple-makers seek a Good Soil Faith Response from the people with whom they share the Good News of Jesus.
Now the stated purpose of Good Soil’s existence is “to motivate, train, and resource people in worldview-relevant evangelism and discipleship” (methods and resources which demonstrate a sensitivity to an individual’s culture and pre-existing belief system). However, that motivation, training, and resourcing of people in what is termed “worldview-relevant evangelism and discipleship” is all done so that, by God’s grace, the trainees might see Good Soil Faith Responses when they share the gospel with their family and friends. What is a Good Soil Faith Response?
Understand. Embrace. Retain.
A Good Soil Faith Response necessitates understanding, embracing, and retaining. Jesus said that the Good Soil person is the one who hears the word and understands it (Matthew 13:23). The Greek word, suniemi, has the idea of putting the pieces of a puzzle together and seeing the big picture. The Good Soil person really gets it; he sees what the evangelist is trying to convey. That is exactly what any evangelist or disciple-maker would like to see. Too often, however, unbelieving friends look at the speaker with blank stares as he drones on. They’re not getting it. Why aren’t they understanding? The evangelist must find out, if he wants to be effective in sharing the gospel, because a Good Soil Faith Response requires, first of all, that the hearer understand.
Mark recorded in 4:20 of his book that Jesus described the Good Soil person as someone who embraces the gospel. This compound word means to “come alongside and pull to one’s bosom.” The same Greek word (paradechomai), is used of the church in Jerusalem embracing Barnabas and Saul when they came to town (Acts 15:4). The church, the apostles, and the elders welcomed the two from Antioch with open arms. Again, this is what one would love to see happen in evangelism efforts—friends welcoming and embracing the gospel.
Luke uses yet a different word in a parallel passage (Luke 8:15). Here Jesus describes the Good Soil person as one who retains the gospel. Katecho, which is translated “hold on to” in several passages as well as “hold firmly” and “hold unswervingly,” carries the idea of refusing to let go of something. Good Soil people are ones who hear the gospel “with a noble and good heart” and won’t let go of it.
Understand. Embrace. Retain. Good Soil’s objective in training and resourcing people is to help them evangelize and disciple in such a way that they will see people truly understand, sincerely embrace, and diligently hold on to the gospel. That is a Good Soil Faith Response. That is the integrating factor of Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship. Everything we do is with that “one thing” in mind.
Therefore, the evangelist needs to ask, “What must I share with my hearers so that they will understand, embrace, and retain the good news of Jesus Christ?” Some might answer, “Well, the Bible, of course!” Agreed, but what part of the Bible? All of the Bible? The New Testament? John 3:16? The Romans Road? A few examples of evangelism in the Bible will answer these questions.
You can figure out the rest! As you look at the image, you see tilling and planting coming up out of the Understand third, reaping rising out the Embrace third, and the three levels of discipleship rise out of the Retain third. Those are the evangelism and discipleship actions necessary to produce understanding, embracing, and retaining respectively in the life of the disciple.
Then, you’ll notice that “Context and Content” rise out of Tilling and Planting. For so many people in today’s world, both are necessary. Three or four Bible verses (content) are not enough. We must give them at least some of the Bible’s Big Story (context) or they won’t begin to understand (the first crucial component in a Good Soil Faith Response). “20/40/100” are the different levels of context Good Soil provides in their resources which should be chosen depending on the lack of understanding a person might have.
“Essential Gospel Concepts,” rising out of “Reaping” piece illustrates a helpful tool to help an unbeliever embrace the gospel (the second component of a Good Soil Faith Response).
The next level in the Understand and Embrace thirds show some of the resources of the resources Good Soil provides to help unbelievers understand and embrace the gospel. On the Retain third, resources (The Way to Joy and GrowthStories) are listed as some possible resources and second and third level discipleship are listed as ministries necessary to bring a disciple to leadership level.
Finally, the light blue bar reaching almost the whole way around the model illustrates the fact that some of the Good Soil resources (The Roots of Faith, etc.) can be used to bring a disciple all the way from being an unbeliever through the second level of discipleship.
An important value on which Good Soil (and this integration plan) is built is an appreciation for chronological Bible teaching and storying. For people of many worldviews (including Postmoderns in America) to truly understand the gospel, they need to understand the big picture (context) of the Bible.
 In July, 2004, ABWE administrators and veteran missionaries met with evangelism and discipleship consultants to discuss how ABWE could best equip its missionaries for effective cross-cultural evangelism and discipleship. After intensive interaction with and creative insights from the consultants, Wayne Haston and Ron Berrus were tasked with developing training and resources to prepare ABWE missionaries. Veteran missionary Dave Southwell joined the duo soon after to advance the training initiative. Their work resulted in the original Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship training and its workbook, The Story of Hope, and The Way to Joy. The author of this dissertation joined the team in 2008, and has assisted Wayne Haston in two revisions of the workbook.
 sunihmi, is defined as “bringing together, to understand” in W.E. Vine, Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words Vines, entry for 'Understand,’ http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ved/view.cgi?n=3133. 1940.
 Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, (New York: American Book Company, 1886-1889), 605 gives one definition for suniemi as such: “to set or join together in the mind.”
 paradecomai “signifies "to accept," by a deliberate and ready reception of what is offered, as per W. E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of NT Words, entry for 'Accept, Accepted, Acceptable.’ http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ved/view.cgi?n=18. 1940, and is intensified by para. Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, (New York: American Book Company, 1886-1889), 130-131 of decomai says, “to receive, take up, take upon one's self to admit i.e. not to reject, to accept, receive of a son: to acknowledge as one's own.”
 John Kohlenberger III, Edward W. Goodrick, and James Swanson, The Greek-English Concordance to the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), katecw, page 2981. Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, (New York: American Book Company, 1886-1889), 339 says the verb means to hold back, detain, retain from going away or to restrain, hinder (the course of progress of) something.