Reshaping the Church

Faith & farming: Farmers raise crops to raise disciples

Posted April 18, 2024

by Selena Ashe

Photo by Eakarat Buanoi for iStock

Faith & farming: Farmers raise crops to raise disciples

From the beginning, God tasked man with the responsibility to manage and care for the Earth in Genesis 2:15. When Adam and Eve sinned, they impacted all of creation, including agriculture.

Noah Sanders, farmer, author, homesteader and teacher, shares how his ministry, Redeeming the Dirt, integrates faith and farming by promoting discipleship through land stewardship to share Christ with communities.

“783 million people suffer from hunger around the world,” according to Action Against Hunger. Global food insecurity serves not only as a reminder of mankind’s sin but also as a signal to prompt communities into action before the crisis worsens.

There is an immense need for the Church to address this formidable problem. Christians can glorify God through farming and address the physical and spiritual needs of people by starting their own gardens to feed communities and raise disciples.

Discipleship & Stewardship

“Discipleship is the process of learning to love and follow Jesus and becoming more like him in our attitudes and actions,” according to GroundWork. “It’s also seeking to make other disciples who want to do the same thing.” Christians can promote discipleship through land stewardship, which entails “utilizing and managing all resources God provides for the glory of God and the betterment of His creation,” according to Study Light.

Discipleship has been an integral part of Sanders’ life that intertwines faith, family and community, he said. He accepted Jesus Christ at a young age, and his father discipled him while his mother homeschooled him.

Sanders saw how powerful everyday discipleship is in his community, leading him to realize that discipleship is not restricted to the pulpit or the missionary field.

“I felt like God’s calling in my life was a little bit more towards, like, discovering and exploring how the normal everyday Christians are used by God to do the work of the ministry,” Sanders said.

Photo by Noah Sanders for Redeeming the Dirt ministry

In God’s perfect timing, Sanders said he discovered his passion for farming by assuming responsibility over the family garden for a year. Upon dedicating his life to discipling his family and community through land stewardship, Sanders wrote “Born Again Dirt: Farming to the Glory of God to raise questions on how faith impacts farming in search of real-life applications. He soon stumbled upon Foundations for Farming.

Foundations for Farming

Foundations for Farming is a nonprofit organization in Zimbabwe. According to its website, Foundations for Farming’s mission is to train small farmers to produce self-sufficient farms and glorify Christ through sustainable agriculture to fight against food insecurity.

Foundations for Farming teaches people to use the resources God has provided them, said Sanders. “It’s not a resource based thing. It’s a faithfulness based thing.”

Sanders became the U.S. representative for Foundations for Farming in 2014 and started the first U.S. training station in Goodwater, Alabama, called Rora Valley Farms Foundations Training Station, also known as Alabama Foundations for Farming Training Center, according to Foundations for Farming.

He continues to utilize a resource called the Well-Watered Garden Project to apply foundations for farming principles to a first world context through his ministry, Redeeming the Dirt. The ministry teaches churches and individuals with or without farming experience on how to start gardens, so they can impart that knowledge to their communities and raise disciples of Christ.

“Redeeming the Dirt”

Photo by Noah Sanders for Redeeming the Dirt ministry

Redeeming the Dirt is a term that represents mankind’s need to restore our relationship with creation to glorify God, said Sanders.

God created four types of relationships at the beginning: man’s relationship with God, man’s relationship with himself, man’s relationship with other humans and man’s relationship with creation, Sanders said.

Sin entered the world and devastated these relationships, specifically human relationship with creation, which is why poverty and food insecurity exist, said Sanders. To mend this relationship, human beings must look to and humble themselves before the Creator, who has superior knowledge of land stewardship and the power to produce plentiful harvests, even in harsh conditions.

This process mirrors our redemption through Jesus Christ, in that we humble ourselves by accepting Him as the Lord and Savior, which redeems us back to God as new creations or plentiful harvests.

“Redeeming the Dirt is that idea of humility, faithfulness and unselfishness that Jesus gives us with our new heart needs to be applied in the way we approach our stewardship of creation,” Sanders said.

Ambassadors for God

Photo by Noah Sanders for Redeeming the Dirt ministry

“The whole point of our life is to be an ambassador for God,” Sanders said.

If Christians forget this purpose, they are susceptible to falling into License or Legalism, Sanders said.

License refers to the two secular camps which dominate farming: industrial and environmental agriculture. Industrial agriculture prioritizes productivity and profit over sustainability, and it disregards the moral dimension of agriculture by neglecting the welfare of people and animals. Environmental or organic agriculture upholds sustainability but promotes worship of creation and not the Creator, Sanders said.

Legalism is the opposite extreme, in which Christians in agriculture must adhere to specific, man-made standards to please God.

Instead of following these worldviews or mindsets, Christian farmers or gardeners must unite around the idea of redeeming the dirt by learning from each other and requesting the Lord’s guidance on how to use the resources given to them, Sanders said. God wants humans to care for and work the land, so we can promote sustainability and productivity in diverse contexts.

A Zimbabwean farmer who produces corn and a farmer who grows apples in Washington state both glorify God through different agricultural practices.

Matthew 4:4 says, "But Jesus answered, ‘It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Photo by Noah Sanders for Redeeming the Dirt ministry

Redeeming the Dirt ministry offers a variety of online resources and hands-on training sessions to help people implement the Well-Watered Garden Project. The ministry is a great opportunity for the average Christian to learn to grow a self-sufficient farm or garden in their backyard, fight food insecurity in their neighborhood and raise disciples by sharing the light of Christ to the world.

The Church can improve its approach to land stewardship by applying the Gospel to agriculture, and in turn, become ambassadors for God who can restore our relationship with creation.

Selena is an upcoming writer who aspires to become a TEFL missionary teacher. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in History in 2023 and is currently enrolled in Regent University's Master of Education program. She hopes to bring glory to God by writing truthful and inspirational stories.