Evangelism: Expect Delay and Disappointment

Mark 4.26-29

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Jesus differed from the modern approach to marketing. He warned of disappointments and delays and did not constantly emphasise instant success. He knows that frequently the human heart rejects things of the kingdom of God. However, this is balanced by his knowledge of the faithfulness and work of the Holy Spirit. Evangelism is not about closing the deal it is much more about sowing the seed of the word of God and letting it do it’s thing and grow.

Jesus’ parable is an image of a farmer scattering seed on the ground and waiting patiently. Clearly this is not a complete picture of the farming process. There is no use of fertiliser or weeding taking place in this parable it is concentrating on one aspect. Frequently the impact of the word of God is gradual and progressive. Today I am sowing some poppy seeds in my garden. I will not be rushing out tomorrow to see how many magnificent blooms I have. But I very much hope that by midsummer I will have a brash display of vibrant colour. Waiting is a necessary part of the farmer or gardener’s job. When it comes to evangelism waiting does not have to be entirely passive. It pays to stay in touch with people we are praying for and working with in the knowledge that we cannot put a time limit on that process. Unlike the seed packet we buy in the garden centre there is no small print which says, “harvest after 12 weeks.” We cannot know how the Spirit causes the word of God to grow in someone’s heart. Our role as Christians is to love people, care for people, pray for people and share when appropriate the good news to the best of our understanding. We must continue to plant the word in people’s lives, trusting in its power, and remembering that God’s timescale is very different from our own.

Earlier in Chapter 4 Jesus told one of his best known agrarian parables, where seed was broadcast and fell on a variety of soil types. Mark 4.1-8 When one has invited friends along to a Christian enquirers’ course or one is meeting one to one to discuss the Christian faith there will be those who delight us by initially turning up or showing enthusiasm but never show interest beyond the initial event. There will be others who having fully engaged, make a commitment to Christ but because of life’s pressures, family, work commitments and similar competing demands choose to consider discipleship is not worth the effort. Then there will be those who fully consider the issues, recognise Jesus as the Son of God and what he achieved on the cross but decide the cost is too high. They prefer to pursue wealth and what the bible calls the things of this world as they mean more to them.

It can be desperately disappointing when we see people we care about and have shared the gospel with having apparently responded to the gospel message but for it to have no impact on their lives. At these times we need to remember Jesus warned that this will happen. We do not have to give up though, we can still continue to pray; answers to our prayers are not limited to our lifetime.

How faithful are we in continuing to pray for people that they will come to faith in Jesus?

Can we get too anxious to close the deal when sharing the gospel?

Spirit of the Living God 

Expect Great Things

Mark 4.30-32

There may be delays and disappointments but there is a good reason to continue sharing the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ. As we look at Jesus life he continued to faithfully teach the word of God when he was received well and met opposition. In the parable of the mustard seed, one of the smallest seeds grows into a plant big enough to provide shade and support birds nesting. Equally the word sown into a human heart can bring about surprising results. Mark 4.32

The initial attitudes of listeners to the gospel are no predictor of the eventual outcome. There are those who have to internally work through their objections and then they can surprise you by announcing out of an apparent blue that they have committed their life to Christ. They may then move on to considerable Christian maturity.

A woman from Iran came to me one day to say she wanted to be taught the truth about Christianity, she could not believe what she did not understand. She insisted that she be taught individually. She had attended the church a year or so ago and gone to bible studies. She felt her questions had not been answered and the attitude of the bible study leader was racist and did not show respect. In addition, she said she expected to be taught in Farsi. That presented me with a challenge, not speaking Farsi and I felt it was unwise if I taught her when alone with a woman, especially a woman from a different culture and whose background was Muslim.

I did arrange for her to follow the Christianity Explored course with a female volunteer and fortunately the videos have a Farsi subtitle option. It was well before the end of the course, before all her when she made a commitment to follow Christ as the word of God change her. Her whole demeanour changed as she was filled with joy having discovered Jesus for who he is.

It is a great encouragement to remember that the power to change lives dramatically is not in our eloquence, it is in the word of God. Whatever our disappointments we should be encouraged to faithfully share the word of God.

Have we ever been surprised when someone has positively responded to Jesus?

Do we take up opportunities to share the bible with people we know?

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet – Amy Grant