- Cultivating, Planting, & Reaping
- Matthew 5:13-15
- Lyndol Loyd September 15, 2019
Out of the Saltshaker & Into the World: Cultivating, Planting & Reaping
This morning we are going forward in our church-wide experience based on the book Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World by Rebecca Pippert. If you haven’t been, I want to encourage you to read the book or listen to an audio download. I also want to encourage you join in with one of our Sunday School classes as they also discuss the topic of evangelism during this same period of time. My hope is that by linking together our messages, the reading of the book, and our discussions, that a sort of synergy will take place through the power of the Holy Spirit that we grow not only us as individuals, but that will help us to more fully live into God’s vision for our church.
As a part of this series I’d like to ask us to read together out loud our theme passage of scripture which comes from Matthew 5:13-15. Would you please join me as we read from the screen together?
Matthew 5:13-15 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.
14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.”
Last week we started off by noting that evangelism…
…isn’t about trying to be someone I am not or could never be. It is about allowing God to use who he created me to be.
…isn’t about yelling, arguing or being aggressive. It is about having authentic conversations with people where they can ask questions, express their doubts and fears, and wrestle with issues of faith.
…shouldn’t be thought of as an event that I go and do, but more of a lifestyle that I live out as I go about my everyday life.
And then we looked to the Model of Jesus, believing that by observing his life and encounters with people that we can find a true road map of what evangelism at its best looks like.
For with Jesus, it was a question of LOVE, as we saw him radically identifying himself with the world. Jesus loved all kinds of people, especially sinful people, and so should we.
For Jesus, it was a question of HOLINESS, as he was radically different from the world. Yes, Jesus loved people exactly as they were, but he didn’t leave them where they were. He called people out of their sin and surrounded them with grace at the same time.
For Jesus, it was a question of OBEDIENCE, as he challenged people to not only know facts about God and about His Word. He challenged people to put that knowledge into practice by living out their faith, believing that often times for people that faith follows obedience.
So where do we begin?
Living here in the Lubbock area we are surrounded by agriculture. Even last weekend at the Texas Tech football game it was billed as the agriculture game because of the importance of farming to our local economy. So most of us who live here, even if we aren’t directly involved in the farming industry, have some frame of reference for what is involved in agriculture, which is incredibly good news for us if we want to get serious about living a lifestyle of evangelism.
Most people associate evangelism with an event. They tend to think of it in association with conversion or the act of salvation. However, from a scriptural perspective, it really isn’t depicted as an event. It is depicted as a process.
To help us understand the process of evangelism, the Bible uses agricultural imagery to portray the process of evangelism. In other words, those of us living here in Lubbock should have a leg up on folks from urban backgrounds when it comes to understanding evangelism.
1 Corinthians 3: 6-9 says, “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. 9 For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.”
Crops simply do not “happen”; reaping a harvest is the outcome of a lengthy series of events that cannot be bypassed or overlooked. Let’s take a look at each of these events before we consider the spiritual analogy:
- Phase 1: Cultivation & Preparation of the soil. Unless the ground is cleared and plowed, the soil will not be ready to receive the seed.
- Phase 2: Sowing & Nurturing of the seed. This can only take place after the soil has been harrowed and furrowed. This is the lengthiest part of the agricultural process since it involves irrigation, fertilization, and weed control.
- Phase 3: Reaping. This final part in the process can only occur when the crop is mature.
THE EVANGELISM PROCESS
When we substitute “soul” for “soil,” the spiritual analogy of these four phases to the process of evangelism becomes obvious. Let’s look at each one.
CULTIVATING & PREPARING THE SOIL
Before people are ready to receive the seed of God’s Word, their souls must be prepared. This can happen in many ways. Often, God uses adversities and setbacks to pull people away from their illusions of autonomy so they can begin to see their true condition of spiritual need.
I want to suggest to you that most effective way to prepare the soil is through the bridge of a relationship with someone. While we cannot make people open to the gospel, but we can help them to be open to us as persons. Think about Jesus’ example; in healing and feeding the hungry Jesus was serving people and building relationship with them.
Rebecca Pippert states in the book, “Most seekers won’t pay attention to our gospel before they have seen our love and care for them as persons. If our hearers do not sense that the motive for our proclaiming the gospel message is love, then all of our efforts will be perceived as “a noisy gong or clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1)
This makes me think about my friend, Scott Jones. Scott and his wife, Jamie, and their two young sons were the first people to become part of the new church that Joni and I were responsible for planting in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. I feel certain that Scott would tell you that when we met them they were doing some hard living individually and as a family.
Scott worked as a local golf pro at the most prestigious golf course in Arkansas and had dreams of life on the PGA tour, but the margin between those who get to do that and those who don’t is a very fine line. Knowing that golf was Scott’s passion, I was determined to find a way to connect with him. So I swallowed any pride I had and hired him to give me a golf lesson.
To say that I’m a horrible golfer is an understatement. If there is a golf club in my hand, there is a very good chance that I’m about to embarrass myself on some level. We started out at the driving range and right off the bat I swung my club harder than I should have and completely whiffed the ball.
After an hour or so of further humiliation and Scott trying to correct a multitude of bad habits and insufficiencies on my part, he suggested that we go play nine holes of golf.
We hopped on a golf cart and as we headed over to the first hole Scott looked at me and said, “I just need to let you know that I’m not really used to hanging out with pastors.” And I looked at Scott and said, “I know this will surprise you after the fine demonstration of my golfing skills that you just witnessed, but I’m not really used to hanging out with golf pros. I was just hoping that we could be friends.”
I would tell you that moment was key to how our relationship unfolded. He knew that I was genuinely interested in him and that he didn’t have to pretend to be different than he was when we were together.
In Acts 26:17b-18 we find the instructions of Jesus to the Apostle Paul saying, “…Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles 18 to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.”
In other words, Jesus was calling upon Paul and he calls upon us to arouse the curiosity of seekers before we preach the gospel. If they see Jesus at work in us, their curiosity will be piqued, and they will want to hear the message of the gospel.
SOWING & NURTURING THE SEED
The parable of the sower, recorded in Matthew 13:3–9, illustrates the phase of seed sowing and underscores the need for receptivity. The seed does not take permanent root when the soil is unprepared.
“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. 4 As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. 5 Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! 9 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
To effectively plant seeds, I think it is important that we have a basic understanding of the Christian message so that, when we do feel led to give it, we can. We need to be able to convey things to people such as…
- the character of God
- the problem sin creates for us
- Jesus’ life, death and resurrection
- our response to the gospel – repentance, faith and obedience
It doesn’t mean that we have to cover the Bible from beginning to end. It doesn’t even mean that we share everything we need to share in one sitting. Much of what we share has to be determined by the person we are talking with and the context in which we find ourselves.
I believe perhaps the most powerful way to do this is tell our own conversion stories. God has given each one of us who call ourselves Christians a story to tell. Some people may have stories that seem quite dramatic, while others have stories that feel more vanilla – but they are all stories of God’s grace. We can all share what my life looked like before Jesus and what my life looks like after knowing Jesus.
My story is more vanilla. I grew up in a Christian home and from my earliest memories I knew the words to the song, “Jesus Loves Me.” However, somewhere in my childhood I bought into the idea that to be a Christian was to be a good person. I mistakenly thought that was how a person made it to Heaven.
When I was a teenager, I heard a speaker make the statement that there would be a lot of good old boys who would go to hell. This really shook me up. I was counting on my own goodness outweighing any wrong I had done. Suddenly I realized that, as a human being, I had a sin problem, which meant that I could never be good enough to earn my way to heaven.
I began to understand that God’s heart breaks for people lost in sin, so he sent his one and only son, Jesus. He sent him not to point an accusing finger and tell me how bad I was, but to set me free from thinking God’s love for me was somehow based on my performance. I began to understand that Jesus lived the only truly good and perfect life and eventually he died on a cross to pay the price for my sins past, present and future so that I might be able to experience life in all of its fullness – eternal life with God in Heaven.
Helmut Thielicke put it this way, “The witness not only confesses and declares his message, he also confesses and declares his encounter with the message.” When we share our conversion story, it reveals our encounter with God’s power and the beauty of his touch on our lives.
The Lord uses us as we pray for people without Christ, develop relationships with them in areas of common ground, and share their own journeys when appropriate.
REAPING THE HARVEST
In John 4:35-38 Jesus depicts the final phase of reaping the harvest when he says, “You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe[a] for harvest. 36 The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! 37 You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. 38 I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”
That is exactly what happened with my friend Scott that I told you about earlier. After months of our family’s having pizza together, hitting golf balls, taking our kids to the park… after countless conversations about faith, small group discussions, Bible studies and worship services… the seeds that had been planted came to maturity. They were ready for harvest and there was a moment when Scott looked at me and said, “I’m ready. I want to be baptized and I want you to baptize my kids as well.”
Can I just tell you that it doesn’t get any better than that? At that moment, I had the privilege of talking Scott through what it means to repent of our sins, place our faith in Christ, and to receive the Holy Spirit.
ALL PHASES ARE IMPORTANT
The key principle to be gleaned from this process is the empowering truth that if we are involved in any one of these phases, we are doing evangelism. Believers who cultivate and prepare the soil, sow and nurture the seed are as much a part of the evangelistic process as those who are given the privilege of reaping the harvest.
I’ve talked to you a great deal this morning about the phases of evangelism. Now I want you to hear Alfred & Mira Sammann about how they have been intentionally been cultivating and preparing the soil, planting and nurturing seeds and reaping a harvest.
SHOW VIDEO – Alfred & Mira Sammann