Text: Mark 4:26-32

In the text today, Jesus taught His disciples two parables of seeds. The first parable is the Parable of the Secretly Growing Seed (v. 26-29). The second is the Parable of the Mustard Seed (v.30-32). The two parables seem similar at first glance, but each focuses on two different aspects concerning the growth of the Church.

The Parable of the Secretly Growing Seed

The Parable of the Secretly Growing seed is unique to the Gospel of Mark. The focus here is on the growth process of the seed rather than the type and size of the seed (see v.31).

When a man sows the seed into the ground, his main concern is the harvest that comes thereafter. As he labours from day to day, he will observe the seed growing from the blade, to the ear, and finally to the full corn that is ready for harvest. He has little control over this growth process, neither is he aware of the mysterious operation behind the growth of the seed. The cause of the growth is invisible to his eyes. There is no human agency involved. Finally, when harvest time comes, he puts in the sickle, and reaps the harvest.

This parable thus teaches us that the Source of Church Growth is none other than God Himself. God uses men as His instruments to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to the lost. However, the working of the Word in the souls of men by the Holy Spirit is mysterious and invisible to the naked eye. The salvation of the lost is of the Lord and not of man. The results of man’s labour are wholly in the hands of our sovereign God. Thus, “just as God alone, not the farmer, thoroughly understands and is in fact the Author of physical growth, so also God alone, not man, thoroughly understands and is the author of spiritual (birth and) growth” (Hendriksen).

1 Corinthians 3:5-8 is a good restatement of the Parable of the Secretly Growing Seed. Addressing the factious spirit in the Corinthian Church, Paul writes, “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.” Indeed, we are but labourers together with God. The increase is in the hands of God. He alone is the source of church growth.

Parable of the Mustard Seed

The emphasis in this parable is the size of the mustard seed. A typical mustard seed has a diameter of 1 to 2 millimetres. Yet, despite the humble size of the seed, a mustard plant can grow to a height of 10 to 20 feet (i.e. 3 to 6 metres). That would make it one of the largest herbs found in the drier regions of Israel. The height and size of the herb makes it a most suitable plant for birds and animals to find shade during the hot afternoon.

This parable deals with the Pattern of Church Growth. God’s work often starts off small. Church planting begins humbly without grandeur. However, as time goes by, God will cause His witness to grow, and bring as many as are ordained unto eternal life into His kingdom. This is the story of the church in the book of Acts. The church started small, but the influence of the gospel soon extended to the Samaritans and finally to the Gentiles. The small seed is now grown into a mustard tree – and it is still growing even today!

Is not this Parable of the Mustard Seed seen in the history of Tabernacle BPC? We first started out in a warehouse in Tampines with a small group of brethren some 29 years ago. By the grace of God, He has preserved Tabernacle BPC and the gospel witness for Christ has now grown. All glory be to the name of Christ.

On the other hand, there are modern-day “gurus” who advocate marketing strategies adopted by secular companies to grow “mega churches”. They make the church feel like the world in order to attract the masses. The whole counsel of God is not preached, but in fact corrupted. The worship service is patterned after a rock concert rather than the principles of the Holy Scriptures. Running a church is now about bang and big bucks, and no longer about her being the pillar and ground of truth (1 Timothy 3:15).

This parable teaches us that church growth is not vertical but horizontal. The pattern of church growth is not the mushroom, which sprouts quickly without much root and dies quickly. Rather, the pattern is that of the mustard plant which starts off small but is well-grounded in God’s truth. In God’s will and time, He will cause that seed to grow and blossom into a prospering tree. God’s work must be done in God’s way.

God often uses little things which the world despises to accomplish His work. “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Corinthi-ans 1:26-31)


Smaller churches sometimes envy the numbers of larger churches. However, in the work of the Lord, it is not size that matters but faithfulness. Size is no indication of God’s approval. As we serve the Lord, we must keep in mind that God’s work must be done according to His pattern. He is also the one who will give the increase. No one can claim any glory for the growth and success of the church but God alone.

Lovingly in Christ,
Preacher Clement Chew