Friday, March 11, 2005

Contrarian View From the Pew: The Parable of the Lazy Farmer

In the “Parable of the Sower”, Jesus describes how a farmer scattered some seed. Some of the seed fell along a path, some of the seed fell on rocky soil, some of the seed fell among thorns, and finally, some of the seed fell in good soil. The seed that fell on the path was trampled and eaten by birds, the seed that fell on rocky soil died quickly because of a lack of moisture, and the seed that grew along with the thorns was choked; only the seed that fell on the good soil yielded a crop much more than what was sowed.

After being questioned about the meaning of the parable by his disciples, Jesus explained how the seed was his words and the different descriptions of the types of soil were those who were listening to his words. He told them: the seed that fell on the path were those who hear his word but never believe; the seed that fell on rocky soil were those who believe him at first, but their belief doesn’t last; the seed that fell among the thorns were those who believe, but do not mature; and the seed that fell on good soil were those who believe what he taught, retain his teachings, and then through perseverance, produce other disciples.

Clearly, Jesus meant this parable primarily for those who were listening to him then and also those who would hear his words as told by his followers and recorded in the Gospels for us today. If we are to call ourselves disciples, we must believe, retain, persevere, and pass it on.

However, there is also another way to look at this parable, which Jesus may or may not have intended. When we look at the parable from the perspective of the farmer instead of viewing it from the perspective of the soil, we could call it, “The Parable of the Lazy Farmer”, or from the perspective of today’s Christians, we could call it, “The Parable of the Evangelical”.

Notice how the farmer didn’t do anything except toss the seed. He didn’t prepare the soil, he wasn’t careful with the seed, and he didn’t remove any of the thorns after his seed had sprouted. He could have removed the rocks and the thorn bushes before tossing the seed, but he didn’t. He could have been more careful to keep the seed from falling on the path, but he didn’t. He could have also removed some of the thorns after the seed had sprouted, but he didn’t. If the farmer had prepared the soil, and if he had been more careful with the seed, and if he had nurtured his seedlings, he would have gotten much better results.

Do we make the effort to really get to know people; their desires, their heartaches, their disappointments or do we assume others want what we want? Just as importantly; do we let them know us, both the good and bad, before we start tossing bible verses and suggestions? Are we careful to only toss our words of wisdom to those who are ready, so we don’t end up wasting our seed and creating side effects, or even worse, starting a plant that quickly withers? Are we there to water and prune and remove some of the thorns and weeds, or do we walk away just when we are needed the most? Are we prepared to endure for the long haul, or are we the seed that fell amongst the thorns? Maybe it’s just too much to try to be, and do, all it takes to manage a farm. Maybe we could use a little help. Maybe evangelism really does take a team to prepare the soil, and nurture the plants, and bring in a harvest.


Hammertime said...

Are you familiar with, "Evangelism Explosion"? It is a witnessing program developed by Dr. D. James Kennedy that I learned about in '95. It addresses your long haul issues, I think, by emphasizing that evangelism is more than just the contact or conversion - but that Christ calls us not to make converts of all, but disciples of all.

Anonymous said...

Having been raised on a farm, I can confirm the wisdom of your new application of this parable. I use a "From Seedtme to Harvest" as my own model for outreach now. For 20 years I gave Bible Studies and helped in Evangelistic Meetings but you're right--we only harvested the "ready" ones and lost many who may have needed much more care and love and nurture both before and after the combines did their job.
Truly soulwinning is a process--and sometimes a long one!

Teresa said...

I like it! We all have different parts at different times, but it's really all about building relationships and sharing our lives and our stories. I think that "The Net" does this very well, but I tend to NOT care for using guides. I just say, stay close to Him, grow in Him, really know Him and then share that with others in a natural way while you are learning.

Bonnie said...

I'm with you, brother. That last paragraph is a winner.

Jennifer said...

Amen, David! I think true evangelism happens when we develop relationships. I love the "combine" analogy. Thanks also for putting under the Luke category!

Buz said...

David, again I am confused. What you seem to be saying in this thread, is EXACTLY what I have always understood personal evangelism to be about. And again, how could any specialized evangelist get to know your neighbor as well as you do?

If you are railing against door to door (Jehovah's Wittness) style evangelism, I have never thought that was a good idea. At the beginning of this continuing thread, you seem to be arguing against the concept that this particular post is promoting.

The saying is somewhat trite, but quite appropriate that "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care". While Peter and Paul would go to cities and proclaim the Gospel, don't forget that that Paul stayed in Corinth for two years, at his own expense, "cultivating" the church he planted.

I think that the idea of "mass evangelism" where some "evangelist" comes to proclaim the Gospel and then leaves the church to try and follow up on all the people who came to the meetings is a recent (20th century) innovation. And I think that it was a method that sort of worked for a while. But I believe that it has run it's course and that we would be wise to revert to the older model of each person reach those in their personal sphere of influence.


David M. Smith said...

Hi Buz,

I haven't been arguing against your understanding of evangelism at all. I have been arguing against how evangelism is practiced in 95% of all of the churches I have ever visited or attended for any period of time. That is why I haven’t responded to some of your comments because I knew you were arguing for the way it should be, not the way it actually is.

I have been trying to describe evangelism as I have observed it. Either your experiences are different, or you are looking at evangelism, as it is practiced, with completely different eyes than me. I don’t think any of my ideas are original and I’m sure there are churches that do what I think should be done, but most do not. I also don’t believe it is a matter of obedience. Most Christians are doing their very best. Most leaders are trying their best, but they are focusing on the wrong aspects of evangelism. The focus on the harvest, and the focus on getting individuals to harvest, and the focus on filling pews as quickly as next Sunday, has hurt the overall cause.

I never advocated Mass evangelism. I did advocate an Evangelist on the church staff who is a specialist, but I never meant to imply this person is the only one responsible for evangelism. I think I have been quite clear from the beginning that I think evangelism is a team effort that involves everyone using their individual gifts for the corporate purpose of spreading Christianity.

I don’t think there is one best way to get it done. However, I am completely convinced that everyone doesn’t need to harvest, or even be concerned with the harvest, if they are not gifted to harvest. I am also convinced that phony friendliness for the sake of the harvest in no way to evangelize.

pete porter said...

The only model for evanelist I see in the word is Phillip. He ministered in power with healing, and deliverance from devils. He then sent for the apostles. My view is an evangelist is indued with power, and signs follow him. At this time I don't know of an apostle, maybe they should have a staff of pastors to train and nurish the new flocks.
Be Blessed, Pete

Buz said...


OK. I have never been quite sure of what your focus was. I have been in churches where there were prizes for those who brought in the most folks ... usually a carrot for the children in Sunday School or VBS, but one pastor actually tried that with the adults ... he was quickly "educated" by the deacons that such was not the way evangelism should be handled. As a matter of fact, when that was tried with the adults, the number of people bringing friends to church dropped, because most people said that they would be embarrassed even by the hint that they might have brought someone in to win a prize.

So, I guess that, except for a few instances, my experience has been different than yours ... might have something to do with the respective areas of the country we live in.