This longer story has been placed first due to the quality of the illustration:
The following article is based on a sermon by missionary Del Tarr who served fourteen
years in West Africa with another mission agency. His story points out the price some
people pay to sow the seed of the gospel in hard soil.
I was always perplexed by Psalm 126 until I went to the Sahel, that vast stretch of
savanna more than four thousand miles wide just under the Sahara Desert. In the Sahel, all
the moisture comes in a four month period: May, June, July, and August. After that, not a
drop of rain falls for eight months. The ground cracks from dryness, and so do your hands
and feet. The winds of the Sahara pick up the dust and throw it thousands of feet into the
air. It then comes slowly drifting across West Africa as a fine grit. It gets inside your
mouth. It gets inside your watch and stops it. The year's food, of course, must all be
grown in those four months. People grow sorghum or milo in small fields.
October and November...these are beautiful months. The granaries are full -- the
harvest has come. People sing and dance. They eat two meals a day. The sorghum is ground
between two stones to make flour and then a mush with the consistency of yesterday's Cream
of Wheat. The sticky mush is eaten hot; they roll it into little balls between their
fingers, drop it into a bit of sauce and then pop it into their mouths. The meal lies
heavy on their stomachs so they can sleep.
December comes, and the granaries start to recede. Many families omit the morning meal.
Certainly by January not one family in fifty is still eating two meals a day.
By February, the evening meal diminishes.
The meal shrinks even more during March and children succumb to sickness. You don't
stay well on half a meal a day.
April is the month that haunts my memory. In it you hear the babies crying in the
twilight. Most of the days are passed with only an evening cup of gruel.
Then, inevitably, it happens. A six-or seven-year-old boy comes running to his father
one day with sudden excitement. "Daddy! Daddy! We've got grain!" he shouts.
"Son, you know we haven't had grain for weeks." "Yes, we have!" the
boy insists. "Out in the hut where we keep the goats -- there's a leather sack
hanging up on the wall -- I reached up and put my hand down in there -- Daddy, there's
grain in there! Give it to Mommy so she can make flour, and tonight our tummies can
The father stands motionless. "Son, we can't do that," he softly explains.
"That's next year's seed grain. It's the only thing between us and starvation. We're
waiting for the rains, and then we must use it." The rains finally arrive in May, and
when they do the young boy watches as his father takes the sack from the wall and does the
most unreasonable thing imaginable. Instead of feeding his desperately weakened
family, he goes to the field and with tears streaming down his face, he takes the precious
seed and throws it away. He scatters it in the dirt! Why? Because he believes in the
harvest (Italics added).
The seed is his; he owns it. He can do anything with it he wants. The act of sowing it
hurts so much that he cries. But as the African pastors say when they preach on Psalm 126,
"Brother and sisters, this is God's law of the harvest. Don't expect to rejoice later
on unless you have been willing to sow in tears." And I want to ask you: How much
would it cost you to sow in tears? I don't mean just giving God something from your
abundance, but finding a way to say, "I believe in the harvest, and therefore I will
give what makes no sense. The world would call me unreasonable to do this -- but I must
sow regardless, in order that I may someday celebrate with songs of joy."
Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962), the world-famous violinist, earned a fortune with his
concerts and compositions, but he generously gave most of it away. So, when he discovered
an exquisite violin on one of his trips, he wasn't able to buy it. Later, having raised
enough money to meet the asking price, he returned to the seller, hoping to purchase that
beautiful instrument. But to his great dismay it had been sold to a collector. Kreisler
made his way to the new owner's home and offered to buy the violin. The collector said it
had become his prized possession and he would not sell it. Keenly disappointed, Kreisler
was about to leave when he had an idea. "Could I play the instrument once more before
it is consigned to silence?" he asked. Permission was granted, and the great virtuoso
filled the room with such heart-moving music that the collector's emotions were deeply
stirred. "I have no right to keep that to myself," he exclaimed. "It's
yours, Mr. Kreisler. Take it into the world, and let people hear it."
Our Daily Bread,
February 4, 1994.
I was speaking at an open-air crusade in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Billy Graham was to
speak the next night and had arrived a day early. He came incognito and sat on the grass
at the rear of the crowd. Because he was wearing a hat and dark glasses, no one recognized
Directly in front of him sat an elderly gentleman who seemed to be listening intently
to my presentation. When I invited people to come forward as an open sign of commitment,
Billy decided to do a little personal evangelism. He tapped the man on the shoulder and
asked, "Would you like to accept Christ? I'll be glad to walk down with you if you
want to." The old man looked him up and down, thought it over for a moment, and then
said, "Naw, I think I'll just wait till the big gun comes tomorrow night." Billy
and I have had several good chuckles over that incident. Unfortunately, it underlines how,
in the minds of many people, evangelism is the task of the "Big Guns," not the
Lieghton Ford, Good News is for Sharing, 1977, David C. Cook
Publishing Co., p. 67.
Sometimes telling a story has as much effect on the teller as it does the listeners.
Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher, recalls: "My grandfather was lame. Once they
asked him to tell a story about his teacher, and he related how his master used to hop and
dance while he prayed. My grandfather rose as he spoke and was so swept away by his story
that he himself began to hop and dance to show how the master had done. From that our he
was cured of his lameness." When we tell the story of our Master, we too experience
Timothy K. Jones.
The Albanian Palace of Congresses, in the capital city of Tirana, was once a virtual
shrine to atheistic communism. But late last year the featured attraction there was not
communist ideology but the Jesus film, a Campus Crusade for Christ evangelistic project.
An estimated 2,000 people turned out for the first Albanian showing of the film in
mid-December, including the country's top government officials. More than 700 indicated
decisions for Christ. "What once was a temple of communism is now being used as a
temple of the holy God," exclaimed the head of the government- controlled Albanian
Christianity Today, March 9, 1992, p. 62.
The Times-Reporter of New Philadelphia, Ohio, reported in September, 1985 a celebration
of a New Orleans municipal pool. The party around the pool was held to celebrate the first
summer in memory without a drowning at the New Orleans city pool. In honor of the
occasion, 200 people gathered, including 100 certified lifeguards. As the party was
breaking up and the four lifeguards on duty began to clear the pool, they found a fully
dressed body in the deep end. They tried to revive Jerome Moody, 31, but it was too late.
He had drowned surrounded by lifeguards celebrating their successful season.
Times-Reporter, September 1985.
All souls are equally precious but not all are equally strategic.
Dr. Joe Aldrich.
Many years ago in St. Louis, a lawyer visited a Christian to transact some business.
Before the two parted, his client said to him, "I've often wanted to ask you a
question, but I've been afraid to do so." "What do you want to know?" asked
the lawyer. The man replied, "I've wondered why you're not a Christian." The man
hung his head, "I know enough about the Bible to realize that it says no drunkard can
enter the kingdom of God; and you know my weakness!" "You're avoiding my
questions," continued the believer. "Well, truthfully, I can't recall anyone
ever explaining how to become a Christian." Picking up a Bible, the client read some
passages showing that all are under condemnation, but that Christ came to save the lost by
dying on the cross for their sins. "By receiving Him as your Substitute and
Redeemer," he said, "you can be forgiven. If you're willing to receive Jesus,
let's pray together." The lawyer agreed, and when it was his turn he exclaimed,
"O Jesus, I am a slave to drink. One of your servants has shown me how to be saved. O
God, forgive my sins and help me overcome the power of this terrible habit in my
life." Right there he was converted. That lawyer was C.I. Scofield, who later edited
the reference Bible that bears his name.
One Sunday evening, William Booth was walking in London with his son,
Bramwell, who was
then 12 or 13 years old. The father surprised the son by taking him into a saloon! The
place was crowded with men and women, many of them bearing on their faces the marks of
vice and crime; some were drunk. The fumes of alcohol and tobacco were poisonous.
"Willie," Booth said to his son, "These are our people; these are the
people I want you to live for and bring to Christ." Years later, Bramwell Booth
wrote, "The impression never left me."
W. Wiersbe, The Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching &
Preachers, p. 185.
It is easy to determine when something is aflame. It ignites other material. Any fire
that does not spread will eventually go out. A church without evangelism is a
contradiction in terms, just as a fire that does not burn is a contradiction.
Theology in Plain Language, p. 162.
The late Sam Shoemaker, an Episcopalian bishop, summed up the situation this way:
"In the Great Commission the Lord has called us to be--like Peter--fishers of men.
We've turned the commission around so that we have become merely keepers of the aquarium.
Occasionally I take some fish out of your fishbowl and put them into mine, and you do the
same with my bowl. But we're all tending the same fish."
Em Griffin, The Mindchangers, Tyndale House, 1976, p. 151.
While D.L. Moody was attending a convention in Indianapolis on mass evangelism, he
asked his song leader Ira Sankey to meet him at 6 o'clock one evening at a certain
corner. When Sankey arrived, Mr. Moody asked him to stand on a box and sing. Once a crowd
had gathered, Moody spoke briefly and then invited the people to follow him to the nearby
convention hall. Soon the auditorium was filled with spiritually hungry people, and the
great evangelist preached the gospel to them. Then the convention delegates began to
arrive. Moody stopped preaching and said, "Now we must close, as the brethren of the
convention wish to come and discuss the topic, 'How to reach the masses.'" Moody
graphically illustrated the difference between talking about doing something and going out
and doing it.
The Order of the Mustard Seed founded by Count Zinzendorf had three guiding principles,
1. Be kind to all people. 2. Seek their welfare. 3. Win them to Christ.
The young salesman was disappointed about losing a big sale, and as he talked with his
sales manager he lamented, "I guess it just proves you can lead a horse to water but
you can't make him drink." The manager replied, "Son, take my advice: your job
is not to make him drink. Your job is to make him thirsty." So it is with evangelism.
Our lives should be so filled with Christ that they create a thirst for the Gospel.
Preaching, November-December 1985.
Dr Paul Brand was speaking to a medical college in India on "Let your light so
shine before men that they may behold your good works and glorify your Father." In
front of the lectern was a oil lamp, with its cotton wick burning from the shallow dish of
oil. As he preached, the lamp ran out of oil, the wick burned dry, and the smoke made him
cough. He immediately used the opportunity. "Some of us here are like this
wick," he said. "We're trying to shine for the glory of God, but we stink.
That's what happens when we use ourselves as the fuel of our witness rather than the Holy
Spirit. "Wicks can last indefinitely, burning brightly and without irritating smoke,
if the fuel, the Holy "Spirit, is in constant supply."
D.L. Moody made an covenant with God that he would witness for Christ to at least one
person each day. One night, about ten o- clock, he realized that he had not yet witnessed;
so he went out in to the street and spoke to a man standing by a lamppost, asking him,
"Are you a Christian?" The man flew into a violent rage and threatened to
Moody into the gutter. Later, that same man went to an elder in the church and complained
that Moody was "doing more harm in Chicago than ten men were doing good." The
elder begged Moody to temper his zeal with knowledge. Three months later, Moody was
awakened at the YMCA by a man knocking at the door. It was the man he had witnessed to.
"I want to talk to you about my soul," he said to Moody. He apologized for the
way he had treated Moody and said that he had had no peace ever since that night on Lake
Street when Moody witnessed to him. Moody led the man to Christ and he became a zealous
worker in the Sunday school.
W. Wiersbe, The Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching &
Preachers, p. 205.
Even if people reject the gospel, we still must love them. A good example of this was
reported by Ralph Neighbour, pastor of Houston's West Memorial Baptist Church in Death
and the Caring Community by Larry Richards and Paul Johnson:
Jack had been president of a large corporation, and when he got cancer, they ruthlessly
dumped him. He went through his insurance, used his life savings, and had practically
nothing left. I visited him with one of my deacons, who said, "Jack, you speak so
openly about the brief life you have left. I wonder if you've prepared for your life after
Jack stood up, livid with rage. "You *** *** *** Christians. All you ever think
about is what's going to happen to me after I die. If your God is so great, why doesn't He
do something about the real problems of life?" He went on to tell us he was leaving
his wife penniless and his daughter without money for college. Then he ordered us out.
Later my deacon insisted we go back. We did. "Jack, I know I offended you," he
said. "I humbly apologize. But I want you to know I've been working since then. Your
first problem is where your family will live after you die. A realtor in our church has
agreed to sell your house and give your wife his commission. "I guarantee you that,
if you'll permit us, some other men and I will make the house payments until it's sold.
"Then, I've contacted the owner of an apartment house down the street. He's offered
your wife a three-bedroom apartment plus free utilities and an $850-a-month salary in
return for her collecting rents and supervising plumbing and electrical repairs. The
income from your house should pay for your daughter's college. I just want you to know
your family will be cared for."
Jack cried like a baby. He died shortly thereafter, so wrapped in pain he never
accepted Christ. But he experienced God's love even while rejecting Him. And his widow,
touched by the caring Christians, responded to the gospel message.
We conducted a three-phase experiment at Rockford College, and used over 100 college
graduates who were preparing for youth ministry.
In the first phase: We took a young volunteer from the room and blindfolded him. We
simply told him that when he returned, he could do anything he wished. He remained outside
the room while we instructed each audience member to think of a simple task for the
volunteer to do. When the volunteer returned, they were to shout their individual
instructions at him from where they sat. Prior to this, we privately instructed another
person to shout a very specific task at the blindfolded volunteer as though it were a
matter of life and death. This person was to attempt to persuade the blindfolded volunteer
to climb the steps at the back of the auditorium and embrace an instructor who was
standing at the door; he had to shout this vital message from where he sat in the
audience. The volunteer was oblivious to all instructions and previous arrangements. The
volunteer represented our young people, the audience represented the world of voices
screaming for their attention, and the person with the vital message represented those of
us who bring the message of the Gospel to youth. The blindfolded student was led back into
the room. The lecture room exploded in a din of shouting. Each person tried to get the
volunteer to follow his or her unique instructions. In the midst of the crowd, the voice
of the person with the vital message was lost; no single message stood out. The
blindfolded student stood paralyzed by confusion and indecision. He moved randomly and
without purpose as he sought to discern a clear and unmistakable voice in the crowd.
The second phase: We told the audience about the person attempting to get the volunteer
to accomplish the vital task. At this point we chose another person from the audience to
add a new dimension. This person's goal was to, at all costs, keep the volunteer from
doing the vital task. While the rest of the audience was to remain in their seats, these
two people were allowed to stand next to the volunteer and shout their opposing messages.
They could get as close as they wished; however, they were not allowed to touch the
volunteer. As the blindfolded volunteer was led back into the room, the shouting began
again. This time, because the two messengers were standing so close, the volunteer could
hear both messages; but because the messages were opposed to each other, he vacillated. He
followed one for a bit, then was convinced by the other to go the opposite direction. In
order for young people to hear our message we must get close to them. Even then, there are
others with opposing messages who also are close enough to make their messages clear.
Sometimes they are peers, relatives...The main lesson: only the close voices could be
heard. Even though the volunteer took no decisive action, at least he heard the message.
The third phase: The response to the third phase was startling. In this phase
everything remained the same except the one with the vital message was allowed to touch
the volunteer. He could not pull, push or in any way force the volunteer to do his
bidding; but he could touch him, and in that way encourage him to follow. The blindfolded
volunteer was led into the room. When he appeared, the silence erupted into an
earsplitting roar. The two messengers stood close, shouting their opposing words. Then,
the one with the vital message put his arm gently around the volunteer's shoulder and
leaned very close to speak directly into his ear. Almost without hesitation, the volunteer
began to yield to his instruction. Occasionally he paused to listen as the opposition
frantically tried to convince him to turn around. But then, by the gentle guidance of
touch, the one with the vital message led him on. A moment of frightening realism occurred
spontaneously as the one with the vital message drew close to the goal. All those in the
audience, who up to this point had been shouting their own individual instruction,
suddenly joined in unison to keep the volunteer from taking those final steps. Goose bumps
appeared all over my body as students began to chant together, "Don't go!"
"Don't go!" "Don't go!" So many times I've seen the forces that pull
our youth in different directions join together to dissuade them from a serious commitment
to Christ. The chant grew to a pulsing crescendo, "Don't go!" "Don't
go!" But the guiding arm of the one with the vital message never left the volunteer's
shoulder. At the top of the stairs in the back of the lecture hall, the one with the
vital message leaned one last time to whisper in the ear of the volunteer. There was a
moment of hesitation, then the volunteer threw his arms around the instructor and the
auditorium erupted in cheers and applause.
When the volunteer revealed how he felt as he went through each phase, it became
apparent that if our message is to be heard, we cannot shout it from the cavernous confines
of our church buildings. We must venture out and draw close to those with whom we wish to
communicate. If we really seek a life-changing commitment from our young people, we also
must reach out where they are and in love, gently touch them and lead them to that
commitment. We asked the volunteer why he followed the one with the vital message, the one
who touched him. After a few moments he said, "Because it felt like he was the only
one who really cared."
Ken Davis, How To Speak To Youth, pp 19-23.
A model from the world of real estate becomes instructive at this point. A firm in
Salem, Oregon, assigns 500 families to each agent. Agents are expected to contact each
assigned family once per month for a year. The contact may be personal, a telephone call,
or a letter. Research indicates that it takes at least six contacts for people to remember
who the agent is and the firm represented. During this time of "building
relationships," agents are encouraged not to go in the house (good psychology,
everyone else is trying to get their foot in the door). Furthermore, they are encouraged
not to ask for a listing during this "get acquainted" time. Obviously, there
would be exceptions to these restrictions, but they do illustrate an understanding of what
it takes to create a favorable climate for selling real estate. After the initial year of
regular contacts, the agent continues to communicate with the assigned families on a
scheduled, systematic basis. Research reveals that if this pattern is followed
consistently for one-year-and-a-half, the agent will secure 80% of the listings.
the real estate firm know that we either do not know or overlook? First, people do not
like to be confronted by strangers seeking entrance into their homes. In fact, in many
communities this is socially unacceptable. The sales person or any other unknown
professional who arrives at the door is automatically confronted with a high sales
resistance. If the door is opened, it is done with a determination not to be "taken
in" by sales talk. The salesperson professionally represents the product, and
consequently the sales pitch is discounted at least 50 percent. However, if a friend comes
over and shares a glowing personal testimony concerning the value of the agent's product,
the reaction is apt to be markedly different. A satisfied customer makes the most
effective salesperson. Second, people are more inclined to do business with acquaintances
than strangers. Third, it takes time and effort to build a healthy decision- making
climate. Fourth, there is no substitute for time. Often it is necessary to "make
Joe Aldrich, Friendship Evangelism, Billy Graham Evangelistic
On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a little
life-saving station. The building was primitive, and there was just one boat, but the
members of the life-saving station were committed and kept a constant watch over the sea.
When a ship went down, they unselfishly went out day or night to save the lost. Because so
many lives were saved by that station, it became famous. Consequently, many people wanted
to be associated with the station to give their time, talent, and money to support its
important work. New boats were bought, new crews were recruited, a formal training session
was offered. As the membership in the life-saving station grew, some of the members became
unhappy that the building was so primitive and that the equipment was so outdated. They
wanted a better place to welcome the survivors pulled from the sea. So they replaced the
emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged and newly decorated
Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members. They met
regularly and when they did, it was apparent how they loved one another. They greeted each
other, hugged each other, and shared with one another the events that had been going on in
their lives. But fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving
missions; so they hired lifeboat crews to do this for them. About this time, a large ship
was wrecked off of the coast, and the hired crews brought into the life-saving station
boatloads of cold, wet, dirty, sick, and half-drowned people. Some of them had black skin,
and some had yellow skin. Some could speak English well, and some could hardly speak it at
all. Some were first-class cabin passengers of the ship, and some were the deck hands. The
beautiful meeting place became a place of chaos. The plush carpets got dirty. Some of the
exquisite furniture got scratched. So the property committee immediately had a shower
built outside the house where the victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming
At the next meeting there was rift in the membership. Most of the members wanted to
stop the club's life-saving activities, for they were unpleasant and a hindrance to the
normal fellowship of the members. Other members insisted that life-saving was their
primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But
they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all those
various kinds of people who would be shipwrecked, they could begin their own life-saving
station down the coast. And do you know what? That is what they did.
As the years passed, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in
the old. It evolved into a place to meet regularly for fellowship, for committee meetings,
and for special training sessions about their mission, but few went out to the drowning
people. The drowning people were no longer welcomed in that new life-saving station. So
another life-saving station was founded further down the coast. History continued to
repeat itself. And if you visit that seacoast today, you will find a number of adequate
meeting places with ample parking and plush carpeting. Shipwrecks are frequent in those
waters, but most of the people drown.
Thomas Wedel, Ecumenical Review, October, 1953,
paraphrased in Heaven Bound Living, Knofel Stanton, Standard, 1989, p. 99-101.
Statistics and Stuff
Evangelism is communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ with the immediate intent of
converting the hearer to faith in Christ, and with the ultimate intent of instructing the
convert in the Word of God so that he can become a mature believer. Evangelism, A Biblical
Approach, M. Cocoris, Moody, 1984, p. 14 How then should evangelism be defined? The
answer is very simple. According to the N.T., evangelism is just preaching the gospel, the
evangel. Evangelizing, therefore is not simply a matter of teaching, and instructing, and
imparting information to the mind. There is more to it than that. Evangelism includes the
endeavor to elicit a response to the truth taught. It is communication with a view to
conversion. It is a matter, not merely of informing, but also of inviting.
Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, pp. 41, 50.
A survey done by sociologists Glock and Stark found that among evangelicals, over 1/2
of their close friends are likely to belong to the same congregation, whereas among
liberal churchgoers, such as Presbyterians and Congregationalists, few or none of their
close friends are likely to be members of their local church.
and Howard, The Emerging Order, p. 115.
Pollsters report that 72 percent of Americans don't know their next-door neighbors.
Bill McKibben, in "the Age of Missing Information",
Signs of the Times, February, 1994.
In a yet-to-be-released poll, George Gallup, Jr., reported seven needs of the average
1. The need for shelter and food,
2. The need to believe life is meaningful and has a purpose,
3. The need for a sense of community and deeper relationships,
4. The need to be appreciated and respected,
5. The need to be listened to and be heard,
6. The need to feel one is growing in faith,
7. The need for practical help in developing a mature faith.
National and International Religion Report, May 29, 1991.
Hence we find in non-Christian religions a restless sense of the hostility of the
powers of the universe; an undefined feeling of guilt, and all sorts of merit-making
techniques designed to get rid of it; a dread of death, and a consuming anxiety to feel
that one has conquered it; forms of worship aimed at once to placate, bribe, and control
the gods, and to make them keep their distance, except when wanted; an alarming readiness
to call moral evil good, and good evil, in the name of religion; an ambivalent attitude of
mind which seems both to seek God and to seek to evade him in the same act.
Therefore in our evangelistic dialogue with people of non-Christian religions, our task
must be to present the biblical revelation of God in Christ -- not as supplementing them
but as explaining their existence, exposing their errors, and judging their
James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.
Nineteenth century Scottish preacher Horatius Bonar asked 253 Christian friends at what
ages they were converted. Here's what he discovered:
Under 20 years of age - 138 (54.5%)
Between 20 and 30 - 85 (33.6%)
Between 30 and 40 - 22 (8.7%)
Between 40 and 50 - 4 (1.6%)
Between 50 and 60 - 3 (1.2%)
Between 60 and 70 - 1 (.4%)
Over 70 - 0
Our Daily Bread.
Return the Cross to Golgotha
I simply argue that the cross be raised again
at the center of the marketplace
as well as on the steeple of the church.
I am recovering the claim that
Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral
between two candles;
But on a cross between two thieves:
on a town garbage heap;
at a crossroad of politics so cosmopolitan
that they had to write His title
in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek...
And at the kind of place where cynics talk smut,
and thieves curse and soldiers gamble.
Because that is where He died,
and that is what He died about.
And that is where Christ's men ought to be,
and what church people ought to be about.
For God so loved the world, not just a few,
The wise and great, the noble and the true,
Or those of favored class or rank or hue.
God loved the world. Do you?