Last Thursday, I took my boys in the bike trailer to our local public library to read books together. The library is one of those “third places” I’m realizing that can be a good way to meet people in my community. Like neighborhood parks, the library provides opportunity for my kids to meet other kids, and for me to meet other young parents. My hope has been to meet such families to share the gospel with them and invite them into our gospel community.
As I was reading to my boys, another boy showed up who seemed interested in the book, so I pulled up a chair and invited him. His parents came afterward and started a conversation. Within a few minutes of talking with the father of this child (Riley), he quickly realized where I was going. How did he know this? Because that was exactly where he was going, too! The more I thought about it, the more I realized how rare it is to live in a city where 95% of the population are unchurched to have someone engage me with the gospel.
But then I thought about it in an even bigger picture. How many people in my lifetime have ever engaged me in a conversation for the purpose of sharing the gospel of Jesus with me? In my 32 years, I can count on one hand the number of times that has happened. I mentioned this on Twitter and immediately had replies from people who said they have NEVER had someone engage them in conversation to share the gospel.
Curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to informally poll my Google+ friends and ask them the same question. 30 people responded, and here are the results:
5 or more times – 2
3 times – 2
1-2 times – 11
never – 15
I know there are some caveats to this (people already know they are Christians, etc.), but all the aside, this is really sobering to me. It has been by researchers that the average number of times a person will hear the gospel before they come to faith in Christ is 5-6 times. If that is the case, then it makes sense why churches are not growing by conversion growth. We aren’t sowing the seed!
In the parable of the sower, the seed of the gospel was sown indiscriminately on all four soils. The sower is generous with the seed. While it is true that only one of the four was good soil and brought fruit, it did not change the fact that the seed kept falling on all four.
I sometime wonder if the reason why there is so little gospel sharing going on is due to our examination of the soil. We look to examine if the soil is going to be fruitful before we sow the seed. Instead of being generous, we are being selective. Not only that, I think there is a temptation to be discouraged from sowing the seed because we focus more on the fruit (harvest) than being faithful with the seed. The sower’s responsibility is not to determine the outcome of the seed. It is the Lord that brings the increase. However, the sower’s responsibility is to determine the outcome of his hands (or his mouth).
I know that some will argue that we should be care not to cast pearls before swine or give what is holy to dogs. I hear that. But I do not thing it is wise to use such an argument for us being stingy with the good seed of the gospel. We don’t know where the wind blows, and we don’t know whose heart God will open at any given time. To employ the words of Jesus, the problem does not lie in the harvest. It is plentiful. The problem lies in the laborers, because there are so few. I’m not a betting man, but I believe God is more willing to save than we are willing to share.
So my encouragement to my fellow Christians is this: let us be generous in sowing the seed of the gospel. It is the power of God unto salvation. Those who are not ashamed of it will be those who are not stingy with it. Let us be more concerned about the fertility of our own hearts as laborers in the harvest than worrying about the fertility of the soil of the hearts of lost people. God can shower down mercy from heaven upon the hardest of hearts. He can also take casual living of Christians and turn it into intentional laboring as well.
Therefore, let us sow the seed and be faithful laborers in the mission of making Jesus known!