Calling all heirlooms…

“I am the vine; you are the branches.
If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5

If you were called an “heirloom”, would you consider it a compliment or an insult? It is safe to assume most would consider it an insult.  Heirlooms are antiques with sentimental value that have been passed down the family line. Sentimental sounds nice, while antique is a tough pill to swallow. However, if you’re a tomato, then heirloom is a huge compliment.

Now is the time of the year to start turning those garden beds and preparing the soil for seed. Did you know there are two basic species of tomatoes, heirloom and hybrid? Do you know the difference? Why should you even care? What do tomatoes have to do with making disciples? Recently, one of our Sonlife trainers has been using tomatoes to illustrate the differences of these two species and why it’s critical to living out our mission to make multiplying disciples.


Hybrid tomatoes are elegant, picture-perfect and desirable to the eye. Heirlooms are lumpy, bumpy and sometimes ugly. They can be a wild card, you never really know what you are going to get. Some are green, red, striped, yellow and some are even purple. They come in all different shapes, sizes and colors. It is a vivid reminder of God’s creativity and diversity in how He selects those He wants to use. God uses ordinary people to fulfill His purposes (Acts 4:13). God isn’t impressed with externals (1 Sam. 16:7) and loves the variety of His people being used.


Heirlooms prove to have strength and vigor, needing less water and pesticides in order to survive. They are hearty and disease-resistant. They have a bold taste packed with vitamins that hybrid tomatoes lack. Red heirlooms have more acidic quality which is needed for cooking and canning. If you look at canning recipes from the 1930s or 1940s, you didn’t have to add anything; those tomatoes had a very high acidic content. Today’s hybrid tomatoes contain much less flavor, taste, acidity, and nutrients. Generally, hybrid tomatoes are bred to make it easier for mechanical production, commercial shipping and shelving. Supermarket tomatoes are often picked green and hard, shipped across the country and sprayed with high concentrations of ethylene gas (a naturally occurring plant hormone that causes fruit to ripen).

Can you see any applications for disciple-making forming?

Have we produced a culture of disciple-making which the gospel message has been bred out or not communicated? God is making His appeal to the lost world around us through our lives (2 Cor. 5:20). Disciple-making starts with evangelism — pure and simple, no extra ingredients required. You have everything you need to follow Christ, to live as sent missionaries reaching our world for Christ (1 Peter 1:3).


Heirloom tomatoes are considered “open-pollinated varieties” where pollination happens naturally by birds, insects, and wind. Heirlooms come from a saved family (literal definition) that has passed the seed from generation to generation in a region for a long period of time. In fact, some say that to be an heirloom, a tomato must have originated before 1940, when the hybrid seed business began to develop. Hybrid tomatoes cannot reproduce. They are snipped, infertile, barren… you get the idea.

The implications are stark and easily spotted. Disciple-making begins in the home, passing from generation to generation (Deut. 6:4-9); continuing to our churches reproducing disciples, capable to multiply. Let’s serve the church by training, equipping and coaching leaders to become “heirloom tomatoes”.

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples…
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”
John 15:8, 16