I’ve been interested in evangelism ever since I was a young teenager, when I was evangelized myself by my dad. Yes, I’d been brought up in a Christian family, and yes, I’d been taken to church every week, and yes, I believed in God and I’d never really rebelled against my church upbringing. But to tell the truth, I wasn’t really that interested in it, and God certainly wasn’t personal to me. I never thought of myself as being in a relationship with God, and there were many things in my life that were more important to me than Jesus Christ.
As I said, I was evangelized by my Dad. He knew I liked to read, so he lent me Christian books, and one of them was very influential for me. It was called Nine O’clock in the Morning, by Dennis Bennett, a story of an ordinary Anglican priest in the late 50’s and early 60’s who experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in a remarkable way in his life and ministry, including miracles and healings. It got my attention, because it told of a real living God who did real things in people’s lives. So I got curious, and went into a process of searching that I won’t describe in great detail right now, except to say that it led to an evening in March 1972 when my dad said to me, “You’ve never given your life to Jesus, have you?” And he was right, and that question was the tool that the Holy Spirit used to help me begin a conscious walk with God. I remember going to my room that night, sitting on my bed, and praying a simple prayer giving my life to Jesus. Not long after that, my dad gave me a little booklet that taught me how to have a daily time of praying and reading the Bible, and so I got started on a habit that’s been with me now for over forty years.
That’s how I was evangelized, and it was a wonderful thing for me. I found a real relationship with God that changed my life, and I was keen to pass this on to others as well. I was quite open with my friends about what had happened to me, even though I was a shy young teenager, and a couple of years later my best friend began to get curious. We were both guitarists and I had invited him to play guitar in the worship band at our church. He had never been a churchgoer, but some of his other friends went to our church too, and so it wasn’t hard for him to slip into the community. Eventually the time came when he decided he wanted to be a Christian too, and since he’d never been baptized, I got to stand beside him on the day when, at the age of sixteen, he gave his life to Jesus in baptism.
So I’ve been on both sides of this process. I’ve been the soil that the Word of God is planted in, and I continue to be that soil today, as I read the Bible and think about it and try to put Jesus’ message into practice. And I’ve also been a sower of the seed, sharing the good news with others and hoping for a harvest. All farmers hope for a harvest, of course. Stan Rogers had a great line in a song he wrote about farming: ‘Watch the field behind the plough turn to straight dark rows, put another season’s promise in the ground’. That’s what we Christians are called to do: put another season’s promise in the ground – in other words, plant seeds of the Word of God wherever we can, in the hope that some of them will come up and we’ll have a good harvest.
But of course, that doesn’t always happen. I have talked about the good news of Jesus with many, many people over the years. Some have not been interested at all, and some have been interested, but not ready for a commitment. Some have just been too busy to add one more thing to their lives, and some have responded and turned to Christ in faith. That’s the way it goes: the seeds are scattered, some of them bear fruit, and others don’t.
This was Jesus’ experience too. In today’s gospel reading, Jesus is describing his own ministry; he’s been travelling around Galilee and Judea, scattering the seed of the Word of God – that is, sharing the message of the Kingdom and calling people to put their faith in him and to follow him. Huge crowds have been attracted by his healing miracles, and have stayed to listen to his teaching. But, contrary to what people often think, the response to his preaching isn’t always a stunning success story.
Read the rest here.