Friday, March 7, 2014

How The Parable of the Sower Encourages Missionary Wives

Christian Clip Art

Missionary X in the Squeegie Islands announces an evangelistic film. To his happy surprise, so many people show up that they have to show the film outdoors, rigging a makeshift screen and loudspeakers. Missionary X reports that almost everyone in the village attended, and even the little children were mesmerized by the gospel message. Twenty-seven people accepted Christ as Savior when the invitation was given.*

Missionary Y in Pulsovia gives out thousands of gospel tracts. He sometimes sees people reading them, but he never gets a response. In Pulsovia, the people are mostly antireligious. They would not even go to a native religious meeting, let alone to a foreign “sect.” When Missionary Y held special meetings, he couldn’t even get all of his saved church members to come, let alone those friends he personally invited. No one ever came from the neighborhood, even after the missionary gave out thousands of invitations.*

Missionary X and Missionary Y sent out prayer letters. They told what God was doing in their countries. Missionary Y eventually lost a few supporting churches because of his lack of “results.” His wife cried and prayed.

And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold (Matthew 13:3-8).

You know this passage. Jesus is talking to His disciples, and He’s teaching them about the kingdom of God. The seed is the Word of God, and the ground is the heart of the hearer.

There are four kinds of ground: 
  1. By the way side—The seed is snatched away. The hearer really never gets it. (verse 19)
  2. Stony places—Something registers but is quickly “scorched.” I don’t think this person is really saved, since the Bible says the Word doesn’t really take root. Whatever the case, at the beginning, he seems receptive and then gives up. (verses 20-21)
  3. Among thorns—This person hears, seems to grow some, but then the new plant gets “choked.” It’s debatable whether he is really saved or not. It seems he has some root, since he grows, but when the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word . . . he becometh unfruitful (verse 22). Colossians 1:6 seems to indicate that all believers bring forth some fruit, so I have my doubts that this person really believed.
  4. Good ground—The gospel takes root, grows, flourishes, and the believer brings forth fruit in differing amounts. (verses 22-23) Notice the amounts here: one hundred, sixty, and thirty times.

The sower represents your husband, you, and any of your children old enough to sow along with you. You sow the Word of God, specifically the wonderful gospel. You spread the seed. It lands as it’s thrown. The seed is all good seed. But the kinds of ground are different.

Some husbands are Missionary Xes. They announce a special service, and the church is packed, so packed that some are standing in the back or sitting in the windows. Many people respond to the gospel and are genuinely saved.

Your church’s challenge is to disciple all of these people, to help them grow and bear fruit for the Lord, to train them to be mature Christians and to be in the Word for themselves. (For some of you, training them begins with teaching them to read, then to study.) You are seeing lots of results. Praise the Lord! But, you also have added challenges—many people to train and disciple, most of them with little background in the Bible and with little schooling. And, you, the missionary wife, feel overwhelmed, because the majority of these new believers are women and children.

Some husbands are Missionary Ys. They sow faithfully, preach faithfully, and pastor faithfully. They may lead someone to the Lord every two or three years. From time to time, they have the privilege to baptize a new believer. They teach, mentor, and disciple.

There still aren’t any men in your congregation who could take over a service. There are very few men who could be qualified for the pastoral ministry, due to their backstories. You’re the wife who cries and prays for your beloved Missionary Y, that he won’t get weary in well doing.

You’ve seen thorny Christians who gave up, unbelievers who listen, and some people who don’t. You’ve been there for those that disappoint you. You’ve been bad-mouthed by people you thought were friends. You have watched the Star Missionaries be praised and get all the publicity while the Plodding Missionaries weren’t recognized by anybody (but God). You’ve watched from the sidelines and cried and prayed.

Here’s some encouragement from the Parable of the Sower: 
  • Along every path, there’s some good ground. Whether it looks like you’re doing major reaping or not, there is some. And, it will, in God’s time, produce fruit.
  • If you’re Missionary X’s wife or Missionary Y’s wife (or someone in between), God is doing a work through your husband. You can get behind him because he’s doing God’s work. He’s sowing and he’s reaping. You are helping, even when you cry for him and pray for him—especially when you pray for him.
  • Pioneer works will usually look like Missionary Y’s. More mature works—second generation or third—will look like Missionary X’s.

I remember reading Valente Hernandez’ book about the pioneer missionaries in Mexico in the 1950s.** They had a hard time. They were persecuted, and some were martyred. Today, Mexico is a missionary-sending country. Oh yes, there are some areas that haven’t yet been reached, but overall, the gospel seed has taken root and had time to grow. There are mature churches and several excellent Bible colleges. Mexican missionaries are all over the world.

In other countries, the gospel seed is being sown for the first time. It will take years for saved people to grow and mature. Probably with their children, we’ll see church leadership, and if Jesus tarries, those churches will eventually send out missionaries.

Let’s make an effort to understand the ground where we minister. Trust the Lord for some good ground and some fruit. Let’s get behind our husbands, helping and encouraging them in sowing the Precious Seed.

Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest?
Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields;
for they are white already to harvest.
And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal:
that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.
And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth (John 4:35-37).

*Completely made-up scenarios. Although representative, they do not depict anyone I know. The “countries” are also fictitious.
** Martyred in Mexico. (Spanish, Mártirizado en México.) The Christian film, No Greater Love, is based on Mr. Hernandez’ book. 


Anonymous said...

Wow. Really encouraging. Thanks for writing this.

Carole said...

Encouraging! Thank You.

Carolee's Corner Canary Islands said...

Thanks for encouraging missionary wives who minister in fields that are stony ground--we plow, but see little fruit for our labor, or so it seems. So easy to get our eyes on other fields that seem to be easier to plow.

Carolee's Corner Canary Islands said...

Thanks for encouraging missionary wives who minister in fields that are stony ground--we plow, but see little fruit for our labor, or so it seems. So easy to get our eyes on other fields that seem to be easier to plow.

Amy Meyers said...

Thank you! I heard a message once from a supporting pastor on being faithful as "stone-pickers." It can get discouraging!

Jolene Sloan said...

Excellent, encouraging post! Love your "made-up" countries too. ;-)