Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sermon--Sowing & Fruitfulness--Mark 4:1-20

Mark 4:1-20--Sowing & Fruitfulness

Read Vs. 10-11

God Has Entrusted You with a Secret, a Mystery—the Kingdom of God
• This Secret, this mystery is not supposed to stay that way
• This secret is not meant to be hoarded or locked away—it’s not supposed to stay unclear, hidden or obscure
• This secret is to be told to everyone possible
• They mystery revealed
• This secret will not be understood by everyone
• Only faith comprehends the secret

Sower & Soils—READ 4:1-9

The consistent thing in the whole parable is the fact that the Sower was busy about the work of Scattering the Seed—scattering the Word—leaving the results up to God—see vs. 26-29—The sower is not responsible for the growth of the seed—God is—

The sower is responsible to sow the seed. Just like a farmer has to prepare the ground and plant the seed in anticipation of the rains—he must be faithful to prepare, to plant before the rains come—believing that what is needed will come. He cannot wait until he sees the rain, then the ground will not be prepared, the crop not ready to receive the blessing.

It is my firm belief that Individuals are to be Sowers and Churches as a whole are to be Sowers.
But it is not always easy.

14-15—they hear, but Satan takes it away

We are responsible to sow the word, sow the gospel, sow Jesus—many times, over and over again.

In many cases, neither you nor the church will receive any direct benefit from it. Much of what we do will not return to us. The seed falls and it does not produce the fruit of a changed life.

But God still sees the Sower as Faithful—the growth is a factor of the Work of God and the condition of the Heart upon whom it lands. God will hold the sower responsible if he fails or is unwilling to sow the seed in the same way that a Watchman in Ezek. 33 is held responsible for the blood of those who die because they neglect their duty on the wall.

We must be about Sowing. Much of our efforts to share the secret, the mystery of the Kingdom of God will be like this—you throw it out there but it never takes root. It comes back without fruit—it is snatched away—the enemy keeps someone in chains.

We tend to look at that as a failure—as somehow a lack of faith—but it is not so.

Some may look at it as the foolishness of the sower to waste such seed on the path—he should be more careful and only put it in the places he knows it will take root. That’s “spending his money wisely”. But do not think for a moment that the Word is void even in this situation. It is by no means void—it will not return

Isaiah 55: ISA 55:10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
ISA 55:11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Even the word on the path, accomplishes what He desires—it may be one step, one act of soil preparation in the path of the person hearing the word. It may be removing any excuse or defense—actually increasing the rightness of God’s judgment. But regardless of what happens with the one on whom the seed falls—
Sowing the Good News, sowing God’s Word changes the Sower—the more the Sower sows, the greater the closeness to, the dependence on, the trust and expectation from God.

He who sows little, harvests little. Those who sow sparingly are not trusting of the one who has called, hired, and told them to sow.

“Satan comes and takes away the word sown in them” Satan also uses that in the heart of the sower—to discourage you from sowing any more, to dissuade you from the hope of ever seeing a harvest.

How long has it been since you’ve been a part of a harvest? Have you forgotten the joy and thrill of seeing someone respond in faith—to see the light ignite in their hearts and eyes? Has it kept you from sharing your story, from inviting, from praying at all?

Satan comes to steal it away to keep faith from taking root, and also with the hope of stopping the sower.

READ vs. 16-17

There are many people that the church meets, speaks to, and shares Christ with and respond. There’s an excitement, there’s an expectation. Both the Sower and the Receiver are greatly encouraged. They respond to your invitation and come to try it out—but quickly conclude that it’s not for them—so they quickly disappear—we no longer see them. Often, they may stay for a while, but eventually they will move on to something new. Maybe they see difficulty and trouble and move on, maybe they will see strife, gossip and bickering, maybe they will get their feelings hurt.

That is the pattern of church shopping and hopping. “if you ever find the perfect church—don’t join it because you will instantly corrupt it.”

Fewer and fewer will stay in one church for their whole lives, very few who will be committed to one denomination over their lives. How many of you grew up SBC? Churches are constantly seeing people come in and leave—even in the best and most healthy churches this happens.

I just spoke to the minister who married Vicky and I—the pastor of a good and vibrant church and ministry, he’s been the pastor of the church for about 20 years. He told me his church is currently plateaued because they are losing (despite their best efforts) just as many new people they bring in.

70% of SBC churches are plateaued or declining. Worse, only 11% of SBC churches were experiencing healthy growth.

People leave and move on from churches regularly—it is not unusual— In part, this is what we’re seeing now—for various reasons people are moving on—you and I both know of those who have responded, visited, and left quickly. Some may have stayed for a while but were never planning on staying for long. Still others, as you know, are retiring and relocating.

Some of the causes for people leaving are recent, other causes have been simmering for years, some are the typical pattern of the church in America—especially here—as I was told when my family first moved here—the mobility of the university population has for many years been considered a hindrance to growth at UBC.

This situation—those who receive it—only for a short time—can again very discouraging for the Sower. Why bother to invest the seed, the time when it’s not going to last? Affliction and trouble is just going to undo what we’ve been trying to do.

That kind of discouragement—for the Sower, for those who stay is what contributes to the next: READ vs. 18-19

These are ones in which the faith has grown—they have had all the time to grow, they are in the time of harvest, but when checked for fruit, they have little to none. In relation to the church, these are the ones who have sat in the pew all their lives and never invited, never shared, never led anyone to Christ.

It is possible to hear the word, to receive it and still be Unfruitful. Because of discouragement, but also other things beside their walk with Christ become more important, become obstacles to true faithfulness—nothing happens in their life even though they’ve been sitting in the pews every Sunday and nothing happens—There is no Power, there is No sense of Victory, no Demonstration of the Work of the Spirit.

Sure they may be getting fed the word, some of the fruit of the Spirit grows in them, but it’s as if they are grain forever locked up in the storehouse—they never get out and contribute to a crop of their own.

Here is the cause—
• worries of life distract us from our true mission—
• the deceitfulness or seduction of wealth—get in the way, desires for other things—
• things less important keep us from doing what is truly important.

Every church has people drop out and disappear—we should never accept it or take it lightly, However, when people leave they typically have a reason. we should seek to be corrective when the church is or other members are at fault, forgiving, redeeming, reconciling and amiable.

However, the thing that will kill any church is not people who leave—the thing that kills a church is a
Failure to Sow and Sow a lot and Sow Generously, Lavishly.
Hoarding the Seed may allow you to eat for a little while, but your Future is Gone.
Not Reaching out to new people, not inviting, not sharing, not grabbing hold of the mission of Christ and taking it out to those who do not have a church home, who don’t want one. Having no love for the lost, no urgency to their salvation is a sign that the Weeds have come up and chocked out our Fruitfulness.

“Over time, most churches plateau, and most eventually decline. Typically, they start strong or experience periods of growth, but then they stagnate. Patterns and traditions that once seemed special eventually lose their meaning. Churches that were once outwardly focused eventually become worried about the wrong things. They become more concerned about a well used policy manual than a well used baptistery.”—pg 17

We must reconnect with our mission—the one Jesus gave to us as a reason for existence here on earth—we must recapture an urgency for sowing by awakening a true love and concern for the lost. Jesus outside of Jerusalem wept for those unwilling to embrace Him in faith. And our attitude according to Philippians 2 is to be the same as that of Christ Jesus.

It’s not going to be by memorizing a new outline though that may help you, but by continuing to fight, not losing hope, continuing to sow and trust the results to God—He makes it all grow.

A growing church requires each person using their gifts to serve and minister to others, sharing their life story, deliberately seeking out and praying for their friends, neighbors and co-workers, requires each person to be a growing and fruitful disciple. Fruitfulness is one way to measure growth. Fruitlessness is one way to measure distraction.

If you don’t ever share your story, if you don’t ever pray for another person in person, if you don’t ever invite anyone to church, or tell them of the life-changing power of Jesus Christ—then you are missing something as a disciple of Christ. And the church is missing something from it’s body—one thing that means is that we are unfruitful. Sowing People make a Sowing Church.

I’ve been asking around, asking previous members and ministers and observing and my fear is that we are not a sowing church. That’s why we can see almost a generation and a half missing from the church. We have children & youth and then roughly 45’s and up. The only ones in the 20-30’s range are on staff.

If our church were to close its doors today, would anyone besides our own member notice?
Would the city be saddened because such a great community-transformation partner—a missionary of impact was gone? Or would it even miss a beat?

Jesus is the Light of the World—but in Matt. 5:14 He calls us the light of the world—the light that should not be hidden,

The light we have is not meant to be hidden, the mystery and secret we have been given is not meant to be concealed.

Vs. 22, 24-25

We must hold on to the hope that is found in vs. 20—that those who receive and become fruitful will produce a wonderful harvest.

The Heart of a Sower—

I’ve got this seed—I’ve been saving it—it is precious—it is the future—it is the future of my family, it is the future of my people—only by scattering and being generous with this precious seed do any of us have any hope. I can’t guarantee the harvest, for each seed, I don’t know if it will produce anything, if I will see any harvest from it. I have faith & hope. The only thing I am certain of is that I don’t scatter it—there will be no harvest.

Individually, you must be a sower—scattering the seed of your faith at every possible moment. But even bigger than you individually—our family, our fellowship must be a sowing church.

Only if we are willing to sow will we ever see an increase. We need, I believe to repent of our unwillingness to sow.

1 comment:

Richard said...

It's amazing to me just how relevant a good message is to all churches. Keep the faith and let God lead. He will.