Learning the law of sowing and reaping
“Southern Baptists are a harvest-oriented denomination living in an unseeded generation.” Chuck Kelley’s words sank deep into my heart. I remember nothing else he said in that evangelism conference. Yet that statement has not left me.
Yes, we are a harvest-oriented denomination. Being the 14th in the Taylor family to be in the ministry, I recall the family reunions in Caledonia. (Where’s that? My roots are from L.A. – Lower Arkansas.) They were dominated by pastors and missionaries telling story after story of soul-saving experiences. I would listen spellbound to the missionary relatives re-living their experiences of seeing entire villages turning to Christ.
I was saved during a revival in Charleston, Ark., and was one of 25 baptized on the closing night. I witnessed my dad starting two churches and recall times the invitation would last as long as the sermon, because people continued to walk the aisles to confess Christ. In my first full-time church, LaMonte, (Harmony Association), I savor the memory of some heavenly visitations which resulted in the altar being crowded with the unsaved finding Christ. Blessed harvest days! Wondrous harvest times! In those early years, Southern Baptists were half the size they are now, and reported baptizing as many as one-half million! Today our denomination is struggling to baptize 400,000 a year, and we are wondering what has gone wrong.
Kelley put his finger on it. We are not harvesting because we have not been seeding. The simplest person can understand this. Farmers have to plant before they can harvest. Gal. 6:7 reminds us that we reap what we sow. We also reap more than we sow, and we reap later than we sow. But we must sow!
Many of us wring our hands in despair at the condition of our world. Forty million abortions (and counting); same sex marriage is legalized in some places; as many divorces occur as there are marriages. Being biblically correct can mean you are politically incorrect. You can talk about Mohammed and Moses, but be fired for talking about Jesus Christ.
Could it be that the seminary president is telling us that the root of our problems can be traced to an unseeded generation? Has our lack of “sowing down” our communities with the Gospel allowed the enemy to plant evil seeds that have crowded out our declining efforts?
One of the very first messages I prepared and preached as a fledgling pastor was Jesus’ parable of the sower. The seed is the Word of God, the sower was only responsible for sowing, not the outcome. However, the sower’s sowing had everything to do with the outcome. No seed sown, no harvest; little seed sown, little harvest; much seed sown, abundant harvest. Every follower of Christ is a sower. Wherever we go, Gospel seed should be scattered. Every church is a Gospel storehouse. We come to get, we leave to give. Can you imagine what would transpire in your community if just those who come on Sunday morning would leave, resolving to take seeds of the Gospel and scatter them everywhere they go? On Sunday mornings 130,000 gather in Missouri Baptist churches. Imagine the impact 130,000 can make the first week, the first month, the next year, sowing down Missouri with the Gospel seed. Transformation will not take place overnight. We didn’t get where we are overnight. But it will take place.
Let me make Gospel seed-sowing practical with a true story. Al described himself as a “highly driven, money-motivated entrepreneur.” He usually worked 60 hours a week at his consulting business. Though he was raised attending church, he had long since forgotten God by the time he was in his late 30s. Along with several hundred other moviegoers, Al was waiting in a long line on the opening night of a popular movie. The frigid weather made the wait downright painful. To his surprise, a number of people were making their way through the crowd offering hot drinks to the movie fans as the line snaked its way into the theater. He was more curious about these people than just the free drinks they were offering. When they came to him, they offered him a hot chocolate or coffee to show him “God’s love in a practical way.” He said “no thanks” to the drink, but took the card, which had information with the church’s name, telephone number and location. His skepticism came out immediately: “Oh, I get it; you’re doing this so I’ll come to your church, right?” Al said he wasn’t ready for their response. “We’d be thrilled if you came to our church, but no, we’re not doing this for that reason. We’re here because it’s cold and you look like you could use some warmth. Besides that, God really loves you.” Al said he was so moved by their compassion, authenticity and dedication that he could scarcely enjoy the movie. He did come to church the following weekend, and it has been three years since that winter night. He not only continued to come, but Al gave his life to Christ and has grown immensely in his Christian life. (For more stories and ideas for seed sowing, read “101 Ways to Reach Your Community” by Steve Sjogren). That spiritual harvest occurred because someone was out on a frigid night sowing Gospel seed.
Stanley Tam said, “It’s what you sow that multiplies, not what you keep in the barn.” We are a harvest-oriented denomination. Let’s sow down our communities with the Gospel. (Gary Taylor is the Missouri Baptist Convention’s evangelism director.)