“But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” Mark 4:20
This past Sunday, we considered Jesus’ parable of the soils. Jesus pictures the word of God as seed that is spread liberally, but then meets with various responses. The first three soils represent people who ultimately reject God’s word, whether due to Satan’s influence, their fading away in persecution or trouble, or their being distracted and “choked” by the riches, cares, and comforts of this world.
There are numerous implications of this parable that are just as relevant today as in Jesus’ day. Let me highlight two regarding evangelism. Evangelism refers to our efforts to sow the seeds of God’s word, our telling the story of Jesus and inviting people to respond.
First implication: We shouldn’t judge our evangelism by its results. One of the obvious takeaways of this parable is that God’s word, including the gospel message, meets with various responses. You can get the best preacher, giving the clearest sermon on the gospel, to the largest, most attentive and willing crowd, in the most ideal setting, and still, you will get drastically different responses: some receiving the gospel with joy and others rejecting it.
The fact that some reject God’s word doesn’t mean we failed in our explanation or delivery, or should never have taken the risk of bringing it up. Of course we should consider how we might explain it more clearly or lovingly, but rejection isn’t a sign of any failure on our part.
This is important for churches to recognize as well: just because God’s word isn’t bearing the fruit we desire (rapid growth, deep relationships, a general excitement), doesn’t mean we need to change our methods or message. Again, we should be conscious of any hindrances that are keeping people from clearly hearing the gospel, but we cannot control how people respond. Jesus tells us that many have and always will reject the gospel.
Second implication: We should remain confident in our evangelism. The fact that Jesus tells us some will reject the message should keep us from getting too discouraged. But the fact that Jesus tells us some WILL receive it and bear much fruit should give us enduring confidence. Jesus promises that some seed bearing will bear fruit. And not meager fruit; a huge harvest!
The reason we can have hope in evangelism and discipleship and ministry, however meager or imperfect our efforts, however fearful or insecure we are about explaining the gospel, is because of God’s promise that his word will not return void (Isaiah 55:10-11).
Most of us struggle with evangelism. We struggle with fear over what people will think, insecurity over our abilities, and discouragement from not seeing any fruit. This parable gives us exactly what we need to keep at it: Though all people need to hear the gospel and we should spread it as generously as possible, many will reject it (they rejected Jesus as well). Still, many will hear and respond in faith, come to know the eternal, delighting love of God for them, and be forever grateful that someone was willing to take the risk and share the gospel with them.