Becoming missional: We reap what we sow

I’m reminded of a story about D.L. Moody. Someone once criticized him for the way he brought everyone to the front to respond to the Gospel.

“Well, how do you do it?” Moody asked.

The man had no answer because he wasn’t leading anyone to the Lord.

Moody’s response: “I prefer the way I do it badly to the way you don’t do it at all.”

There’s much I don’t like about the way the Gospel is preached in this country–for example, televangelism. But can I criticize if I am doing nothing myself?

John wesley small

Another story, this time about John Wesley.

John Wesley was an intinerant evangelist traveling widely in order to preach the Gospel. One day, someone challenged him that he should only speak to people about the Lord when he sensed God prompting him. He tried it for one week. During that time he spoke to virtually no one because he never sensed the Lords’ prompting. At the end of the week he concluded this didn’t work and went back to speaking to everyone he met.

I speak to myself: we have lost the art of abundant Gospel sowing.

The principle of sowing and reaping applies. The harvest we reap is directly proportional to the amount of seed we sow. (Obviously other factors such as quality of soil, water etc. need to be taken into account). In general, we reap little because we sow little. Are we trying to harvest in fields where little or no seed has been sown?

The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptists have produced a wonderful video called Like a Mighty Wave. It can be downloaded from their video resource section  It examines the ten common practices of movements where many people are finding Christ and many new churches are starting. One of these practices is abundant Gospel sowing.

What does it look like for us to sow abundantly in a way that fits our simple/organic principles? If we cannot do it here in our own culture, how do we expect to do it on the mission field?

12 replies on “Becoming missional: We reap what we sow”

Felicity, I’m afraid I still have a problem with all this. It seems to me that there are many principles involved, including:
* Some have a gift for evangelism, some don’t. We are all called to be ready to give a reason for our hope, but I’m not sure if we are all called to “sow abundantly” – at least not as individuals. The church is called to produce fruit, but that is all kinds of fruit using all the different gifts working in harmony.
* Jesus said not to give what is holy to God and pearls to pigs. Whatever this means, it surely means to be sensitive and circumspect about when we speak. When I was working, all my friends and colleagues knew I was a christian, most respected me for it, but few ever wanted to discuss it, and several told me quite clearly they would ask me when/if they wanted to hear what I had to say. I feel that in our culture, non-believers know the facts of the gospel to some degree, and are sick of ‘religion’. They don’t need more information, not ear-bashing, but they need to see love in action.
* Jesus said people should see our good works and give glory to God. I think that is what is needed today.
Having said all that, I don’t feel entirely happy with the outcome of that way of thinking. While I have helped many christians in their faith, and have offered opportunities to hear the good news to many on the web, it is years since my words had a part in anyone’s conversion (though hopefully my prayers helped). So I think it is good you are raising these matters, but I think we may need some fresh understanding and approaches.

UmkleE, you describe exactly the conundrum of all of this. I think the church has swung too far onto the side of lethargy–maybe because everyone is so busy. The answer isn’t a legalistic, duty-driven evangelism, but somehow expressing God’s love to the world in a way they can relate to. The video that Carolyn points to would perhaps express some of it–ie motivated by love, but willing to risk praying for others’ needs.
What if everyone was on the lookout for opportunities to pray with others? Yes, there are some gifted evangelists who will see far more fruit than the average person, but the title of my book, An Army of Ordinary People still stands for me.
My question still is this: what does simple/organic evangelism look like?

I believe God has an agenda of His own. I believe that if we are available to God for His purposes, that His Holy Spirit will use our lives, words and deeds, often unbeknownst to us, to express the Gospel to others. Jesus did not guilt trip people as far as I can understand thus far. I am learning new perspectives every day, and that includes feeling that I am walking with God and that He does of His good pleasure in His good time, and that seems to be without my good intentions. I live an exciting life just knowing that God is up to something, that my unspectacular daily life counts for some purpose that will not be obvious for some time if ever to me. My goal is to keep falling in love with Him as I become more and more aware of the many many ways He blesses and works in all our lives, has blessed and moved in all our lives and will bless and move in all of life. I spent years feeling like I should share the Gospel verbally with any and all. I cannot embrace that motivation anymore. His ways are so mysterious that all I can do is wonder and watch, believe, pray and test the spirit of things that come into my life and work to see if I am in sync. I do appreciate you expressing your views. It makes me examine my own. In answer to your question: it looks like a diamond with so many facets that it cannot be defined by any one of them.

Felicity, I am encouraged by what I have been reading in your blog. I have subscribed and am looking forward to reading more.
I would like to say something about the gift of the evangelist. Eph. 4:11 tells us that God gave the church several different gifts evangelist being one of them. Then verse 12 explains what those gifts are for. The gifting of the Evangelist is to perfect the saints in the ministry of evangelism so the body can be edified. The Bible is clear what evangelism is and that is to present the Gospel of Christ. Life style evangelism is not evangelism unless Christ is eventually revealed to those we involve ourselves with. Romans 10:14-15 How shall they call on him… whom they have not heard? The preacher here is not only the ordained minister it is also the laborer who chooses to carry the gospel into the harvest and LABOR. How beautiful are the feet of them that PREACH THE GOSPEL.

Sweet discussion. I’ve lived for decades under the ‘architecture’ that encouraged me to evangelize (download a monologue) that reflected the “Roman Road”. Great stuff, and great at producing cold call salesmen for Jesus.Always a struggle for me;always a bit dissatisfying. Yet, it really did help me (don’t know how about how it helped others!)to grow in boldness and clarity in expressing my faith. I saw some come to Christ, but I also knew that the gift of evangelism was not mine. I was a big fan of Jesus, but evangelism was a program- purely a discipline.
In recent years I have been overseas on the mission field and worked stateside in faith-based community development. As I build relationships -even casual encounters- I have moved into the ‘make disciples’mode. While some have the gift of evangelism, all are called to make disciples. So I look to do the things Jesus would do(and is doing)and I just stay open to explaining why I do it. Almost no one ever turns down prayer. Most people are weary of religion (and a religious spirit), but most are also open to spiritual discussions. The Bible is chock full of great stories, and people like stories. Most people are seeking friends and co-workers who will listen well and make gentle, wise, strong,ethical, caring decisions… and that opens doors to all of us who follow him without religious hurdles or insider language. I am learning to expect the supernatural (not necessarily the spectacular)… and Jesus shows up pretty often if I am just a wee bit willing to stretch. It’s a lifestyle I think he is trying to instill in me as I finally take seriously his call to follow him.
Hope this a positive addition to the conversation, and doesn’t sound preachy.
I really appreciate Felicity and I am thankful for the discussion.

Rita, I love your phrase about a diamond with many facets. That’s what this feels like. I don’t want to be motivated by guilt, but I do want to have God’s heart for the many as well as for the individual.
Elias, I totally agree with you that the gift of the evangelist is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. One of the most effective evangelists I know is always training people in how to pray for others, how to lead them to Christ. We need more people like that.

uncleE: Thanks for your thoughts, I think your comments are fairly common so allow me to give a brief comment on only your first point where you say,
“Some have a gift for evangelism, some don’t. We are all called to be ready to give a reason for our hope, but I’m not sure if we are all called to “sow abundantly” – at least not as individuals. The church is called to produce fruit, but that is all kinds of fruit using all the different gifts working in harmony.”
I believe I am an Evangelist and therefore my role, according to Ephesians 4:11-12 is to ‘equip’ the body to do the work of service which in my gifting would be, evangelism. There is no evidence for the gift of evangelism in the N.T., nor do I think every gift is listed in the N.T. I do believe that every believer is an evangelizer! We do see Jesus commanding all of his followers to make disciples which must include evangelism (Matt. 28:19-20), we also see Jesus tell all believers to be His witness in all the world (Acts 1:8). We see the common people (non Apostles) spreading the Word aggressively and successfully everywhere they went after persecution hit Jerusalem (Acts 8:1-4). We can see in the Gospels that Jesus instructs all of His followers to preach that the Kingdom of God is at hand as well as promising to give us the right words at the right time that equals success (Matt10, Mark 13, Luke 21). There is much more but with only this information, we certainly must understand that Jesus wants to multiply communicators of His good news, not listeners. I believe Jesus wants us to have freedom in evangelism so that it is romantic, adventurous and a bunch of fun to see God move in the hearts of people not yet connected to Him. I believe the Scriptures tells us that He does so creatively with each person to compliment their personality, sphere of influence, location, generation etc. Success in evangelism should be seen as obedience to act and speak as the Spirit directs us…He is responsible for the results (1 Cor. 3:5-9, 2 Cor. 3:6). I hope this gives you a bit of freedom and a different perspective. Feel free to continue to conversation if you’d like 🙂 Ed Waken

Erin: The most effective evangelists will have the people in their spiritual community evangelizing with passion, adventure and consistency so that there is a multiplication of communicators instead of people bringing non-believers to the evangelist to ‘close the deal’. As Felicty (and the Scriptures) said, the more we sow, the more we will reap. God is all about multiplying sowers. I hope that this thought is of some benefit for you.

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