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Wasteful Sowing

Personal evangelism requires trust in God’s promises, self-sacrifice, and fervent thankfulness for what God has done for us to prompt us to say anything.

It also requires perfect vision to see what Jesus sees when he tells us that the harvest is ready and the workers are few.

Advancing God’s kingdom through his Word is a mystery. Jesus even used a parable to help describe the work of evangelism.

Within the context of the parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-20), Jesus had finished answering the Pharisee’s accusation that he has an impure spirit and filled with demons. Members of his immediate family even sent a message that he was out of his mind. (Mark 3:20-35) The chapter concludes with Jesus saying, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

It is in the context of rejection — or labeled as a fool by family members — that Jesus teaches about the mystery behind advancing God’s kingdom through the power of his Word.

We are given the ability to understand that:

  • Evangelism is about faithfulness not duty.
  • Evangelism is spirit-driven not results-driven.
  • Evangelism is not a formula to follow, nor a complete understanding how it works, but a matter of faith.

Jesus uses the condition of soils to describe human hearts.

He is the only one that can judge them, knows their readiness to receive his Word, and who will receive the gift of faith.

And he is not going to tell us.

Why not?

Because Jesus loves all the soils and desires every soul to come to repentance.

Therefore, all believers have been commissioned to sow gospel seeds, not judge the soils — even when human hearts may outwardly appear as wasteful sowing.

Note in the parable that there is a farmer who is spreading seeds everywhere. He may have intended to spread most of the seeds in good soil, yet there seems to be plenty of seeds that land on unproductive soil.

Perhaps that is an adequate description of evangelism activity.

Evangelism will encounter rejection. People, even fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, will consider evangelism in their community to be a foolish errand. It will seem that most activity to proclaim the gospel has appeared to be unproductive.

Is evangelism a waste of time?

The only way to answer that question is to review God’s promises.

The prophet Isaiah told his people that his Word will never return to God empty (Isaiah 55:11).

Jesus commissions all disciples to go out into the world with the promise that he will be with him.

Jesus does not commission his disciples to be successful, but faithful.

The habit of pre-judging soils can have a dramatic impact on evangelism activity.

If we proclaim the gospel and a person shows no interest, we automatically assume that their soil is rocky and unproductive. If we proclaim the gospel and the person responds with great interest, we automatically assume that the seed landed in good soil.

Many times, I have been disappointed when a person initially deemed as “good soil” by exhibiting great promise never returned phone calls or ever walked through the church doors on Sunday morning. Several times, I have been joyfully surprised when a “rocky soil” person came to hear God’s Word and received faith.

We tend to be too quick to judge soils based on how people immediately respond.

Wasteful sowing can be a product of giving up too soon on a soul rather than trusting the power of God’s Word to peel away the layers of sin and misinformation about Christ.

The gospel is still good news.

We live in a post-Christian nation and the fruits are being displayed in political unrest. When the immunizations for COVID-19 arrive and a sense of normalcy returns, the social landscape will have changed.

  1. Going to church will be deemed as even more irrelevant.
  2. More people will know little or next to nothing about Jesus – except hearsay from friends or the pop culture.
  3. Due to the over-politicized evangelical community, it’s going to be even more difficult to gain an audience to hear the Word.

Coupled with economic uncertainty, this will likely be the climate where we will emerge.

But take heart.

The gospel is still good news.

The power of God’s Word still works.

We could be entering a period like the prophet Jeremiah where few people believed.

We could be entering a period like the early Christian church where people heard the Good News and believed.

Here is the point.

Dismissive responses — even initial anger — are not necessarily the result of unproductive soil.

It could be the climate that we live in right now.  It could be the response of a lost soul hearing a clear message of what God has done for the first time.

Whenever God’s Word is proclaimed, God goes to work. His Word percolates in the hearts and minds of those for whom he has been planted. Over the course of weeks, months, or even years, the seed can germinate, grow, and blossom into faith.  A miracle of a soul rebirthed is brought before the font of baptism.

Most of the time, the person who plants that initial gospel seed will never know the results.

But God knows. Even from the beginning.

And that is an important secret of the kingdom of heaven.

God uses his Word as the only means to rescue his people from sin. In his wisdom, he has set his believers apart to deliver his Word.  A faithful response is to go and trust the results are in his sovereign hands.

I believe right now is the greatest opportunity in my lifetime to proclaim the gospel to lost, hurting souls.

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Romans 10:14-15

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