The Challenge of Gospel Seed Sowing

THE work of seed sowing is not "peanuts." The sower has to con tend not only with the temper of the elements but with all kinds of unpredictable as well as predict able factors. When the Saviour portrayed the gospel work as seed sowing (Matt. 13:3-8), He was both warning and challenging ministers in every age that their task is no weekend picnic. . .

-In pastoral work in the Southern California Coniference at the time this article was written

THE work of seed sowing is not "peanuts." The sower has to con tend not only with the temper of the elements but with all kinds of unpredictable as well as predict able factors. When the Saviour portrayed the gospel work as seed sowing (Matt. 13:3-8), He was both warning and challenging ministers in every age that their task is no weekend picnic.

Anyone who conceives of the minister's role as sitting on a throne of glory, with every eye riveted on him, is surely day dreaming. True, there will be thrones and crowns (Rev. 5:10) but those will be unpacked after the harvest. Meanwhile, there are only the yoke and the plow (Matt. 11:29; Luke 9:62). And the true seed sower really strains and sweats. His back is drenched by the rain and his skin is scorched by the sun.

In the Work or at Work?

There is a joke about a fellow who was about to be awarded a certificate of merit for being the only employee who never took a single coffee break. Queried about the secret of his "unusual feat," he replied candidly, "I never took a coffee break because coffee keeps me awake." The moral of the story one can be in the work without really working. The proof of a worker's honest labor is not in a punch card or in a labor re port. It is rather in the ultimate fruit or result. The end product reveals whether the minister has been working hard or hardly working.

The Enemy's Tares

In all fairness to the clergy, their work is beset with "tares" (Matt. 13:25), commonly known as pit falls or occupational hazards. Every day there are subtle as well as overt pressures to which the minister is exposed. Daily contact with the woes and the ups and downs of human problems is hard on the mind and nerves. After all, the minister is also made of clay.

Every now and then it is mandatory for the minister to "be still" (Ps. 46:10), to calmly survey the harvest field, and be on the look out for the enemy's tares such as:

a. The Popularity Poll, There is danger that the minister will measure his performance via a spiritual Gallup poll. There is a temptation to subscribe to the Apollos; Peter, or Paul syndrome (1 Cor, 1:11, 12). Elijah is a prime exhibit, first, he was up there on the mountain-top of -physical and emotional achievement, savoring the sweet nectar of victory. Momentarily, the crowd was on his side, yelling, "The Lord, he is the God" (1 Kings 18:39). The distinct manifestation of God's power and glory on his behalf caused Elijah's spirit to soar on a euphoric cloud of sheer religious ecstasy. But as the weight of human reality began pressing down upon his soul, the poor preacher was next found cowering under the chilling assault of fear and cynicism and the derisive mockery of a deflated ego (chap. 19).

The minister must constantly remind himself that as there were different types of soil in the parable of the sower and each sample yielded a different result, so conditions are often variable and people are often unpredictable. Public acclaim is a shaky yardstick of one's achievement. Today's "hosannas" might just be the prelude to a "crucifixion" on the morrow.

b. The Quest for Perfect Conditions. Once in a while, ministers like other people, indulge in some form of wishful thinking. "If only I had a larger budget, an affluent congregation ultramodern facilities, the proper connections, the gift of spellbinding oratory, or a striking personality headlines would be made and marvelous things accomplished!" But alas, he is jolted back from his reverie and into the stark realization that all he has is the common garden variety, which "to day is, and to morrow is cast 'into the oven" (Matt, 6:30).

Again, the parable teaches that there are no perfect -conditions and "he that observeth the wind shall not sow" (Eccl. 11:4). The sower must "preach the word; . . . in season,; out of season" (2 Tim. 4:2).

c. The Destruction That Wasteth at Noonday. Noontime is symbolic of success. "He has reached '.-his zenith, or noontime," is a common expression. It is at noontime that the sun reaches its apex and emits its brightest rays. In SDA parlance it is called "ceiling." That is the point where salarywise and tenurewise, the minister has attained the maximum.

This is all excellent except when noontime becomes an occasion for destruction (Ps. 91:6). The destruction comes when the minister succumbs to the onslaught of mental and spiritual inertia. That is the juncture where the process of growth grinds to a standstill. In sports vocabulary, the man is no longer a "hungry" fighter. He merely goes through :|he motions of survival, his sermons become stale reruns, the church atmosphere turns stuffy with spiritual complacency, the trumpet has lost its distinctive note, and the poor man staggers amid "every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14).

Would to God that every SDA minister may be found after the fashion of Moses, that great preacher of God, who found even at his sunset years that "his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated" (Deut. 34:7). By the grace of his Lord, he didn't allow the "destruction that wasteth at noon day" to decimate his physical and spiritual stature.

d. The Impatience of inexperience. This is specifically applicable to young and budding ministers. Youth is impatient for tomorrow. Policies are mere "thorns in the flesh." Committees are often made up of a bunch of arthritic "mothballs" - whose lengthy deliberations delay ,; the march to progress. Like the; Servants in the parable, youth wants to snatch up the weeds right now (Matt. 13:27, 28).

Rightly channeled and under stood, this youthful and surging energy will yet light the world and set the machinery of progress whirling!

The Good Earth

It is refreshing to realize that the parable of the sower did not end with the thorny ground and the parable of the tares did not conclude with the weeds. For every "wayside" or "stony ground" or "thorny place" there is a "good ground" that yields a "hundredfold." Good seed is really never wasted! In the time of the harvest there will be abundant "wheat."

There will be times, though, when; the sky darkens, the lightning flashes, the thunder booms, and the minister buries his face in momentary discouragement. There wt|j;be moments when he will be tempted to question whether his work is worth all that effort. There will be occasions when the noise of the "rebels" and the "mixed multitude" will goad him to strike the rock in a fit of anger and frustration. There will be instances when he reaches the point of pulling out the "weeds" abruptly.

But when he raises his head again and snaps but of the fog, his eyes dilate in wonder and amazement as he sees before him a golden field of waving grain ready for the harvest!

At last he remembers with holy joy that Paul planted, "Apollos watered; but God gave the increase" (1 Cor. 3:6).

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-In pastoral work in the Southern California Coniference at the time this article was written

August 1973

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