The Four Soils of Discipleship

The Four Soils of Discipleship

Once we choose to follow Jesus, we become His disciples. It is not something we work toward; it is simply who we are.

Have you ever thought of your life with Christ like that?

As we read about the four types of soil in Jesus’ “Parable of the Sowers” in Matthew 13:1-23, it is easy to see how only one of those soils “indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty (Matt. 13:23).” All the soils have differing levels of interaction with the seed, but the only one that nurtures the harvest is the one that is fully ready to accept the seed and let it grow roots.       

As D.A. Carson said,

“People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from a grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to scripture faith and delight in the Lord.

“We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide towards godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”

This drift Carson talks about is something all of us can fall victim to if we do not give our actions purposeful thought. We need to know where we are headed and how to get there. And this is why life-long discipleship is a core value for us at Harvest. We need to live together as disciples of Jesus and grow as we walk alongside Him, just as His original twelve disciples did.

Looking again at the “Parable of the Sower,” there are four different types of soil we can find ourselves resembling.

On the hard path, there is essentially no soil at all. And for those who find themselves there, there is basically no chance for any seed to sprout. Their heart is just not ready to receive anything God can offer them, and the enemy snatches up what could have been (Matt. 13:19).

On the rocky path, where there is at least some soil, a person’s faith in Jesus can quickly spring up and appear to thrive (albeit temporarily), but the rocks cannot sustain it. No roots can grow. So, when any sort of pressure comes, or it gets too hot, it quickly wilts away and disappears amid the external forces that press upon it (Matt. 13:20-21).

The path where thorns grow can also seemingly thrive at first, as there is a decent amount of soil where one’s faith in Jesus is able to sprout. But the thorns that grow alongside it are too much for that faith to fully grow and bear fruit. The thorns crowd it out, or as Jesus describes here, “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word (Matt. 13:22).” Sin and distractions are simply too enticing … even if the results of that sin bear bad fruit or no fruit at all.

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However, there is one other kind of soil. It is in this good soil where the roots of faith can reach down deep and grow that faith up into an abundant harvest regardless of outside forces. It is in that good soil where Psalm 1 becomes a profound reality for those of us who choose to follow Jesus:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

No matter which soil your heart resembles at this point in time, God will meet you there and till the soil of your heart to be ready to nurture your faith. But you must invite Him to do it. You must give Him permission to serve as your landscaper.

But here is another important thing: We at Harvest want to help you in that process. If you have questions, we want to help answer them. If you want to talk about God or the ways of Jesus or any other number of spiritual and life matters, we want to chat about those things with you. Afterall, life-long discipleship is one of our core values. That discipleship process can be challenging, messy, and take time, it is worth figuring out how it can take shape in your life.


  1. Which soil does your heart resemble right now? How can you make it more accessible to Jesus?
  2. In which areas of your life do you need to grow?
  3. What more about God do you want to know? And what are you going to do to deepen your understanding of Him?