I was reading Mark 4 today, it’s a passage I go back to over and over. The sower sows the Word. And today, I saw something that I had never seen before. Something that I realized was true a long time ago from experience, but something I had never realized was in the Word!
It is this: preaching is a gamble. When I get up on a Sunday morning, when I go live on a Wednesday night, when I travel to a church as a guest speaker – even writing a blog like this, there are four different possible reactions:
- The Pavement Reaction. Which is actually no reaction! Someone can be in church, hear a powerful message on forgiveness and still be just as bitter as when they walked in. Not an ounce of difference! Just as prickly, just as easily offended as before the seed is cast at them!
- The Rocky Reaction. They get really excited about the message, they find you and tell you the message was the greatest ever, they are so passionate about what you said and the Scriptures you used, but in 48 hours it is like they never heard it at all. Their troubles caused them to forget the Word. Often they blame you for the Word not working, they can even start to hate you.
- The Weeds Reaction. The Word starts to work in them, but ultimately “life” gets in the way, and the cares of the world and getting ahead in life, and keeping up with the Jones, and family and friends, and tiling the bathroom – all stops them keeping moving forward with God.
- The Harvest Reaction. This is someone who hears the Word, keeps coming, becomes consistent, faithful, mature – you know they will be at church, you know they will keep short accounts with God and people, you know they will grow. They produce 30, 60 and 100 fold – they become leaders, champions, healed, blessed, they manifest favour. It’s a joy to pastor them.
Now here is what I realized today, I have zero control on how the Word is going to be received. I throw the Word to everyone and I have no idea. People surprise me. Sometimes people get offended who I thought would never get offended! Sometimes people get distracted by the most petty of worldly things that I never thought would let the Word inside them get choked. Sometimes people leave church for reasons that seem just foolish and immature, and they never go to church again, and it’s a shock. But also, sometimes people forgive and grow who I never thought would grasp the Word, people start to live for God from the most unlikely of backgrounds. The Word has the power to change anyone who will listen to it and deal with the rocks and weeds in their heart.
It’s a gamble every time you preach, but you preach your heart out, you sow the seed in every heart, you expect everyone to come to a point of being good ground, you realize that without fail some of the seed you sow will most definitely come to good ground, most definitely change lives and produce harvest. Then you leave the response to the people and their hearts, and let them decide what kind of soil they want to be, without trying to dominate, manipulate or intimidate them.
You are making a difference every time you preach – but you do not get to choose whose live you make the difference in. If you deal the cards often enough you will eventually get Aces. But you don’t get to decide where or when, so keep dealing – keep scattering the seed of the Word, keep speaking life, keep preaching truth. Don’t get upset when sometimes you roll a double one and someone doesn’t get it, love them and keep preaching, take another roll of the dice, take another go.
Keep speaking life, keep sharing the truths. Do not quit. Some sermons will be received better than others, some weeks you will “win” more than others, but keep going. If one in four produces 30 or 60 or 100 times return, if you keep going, eventually you will end up growing your church and ministry.