Matthew 13:3-9 (18-23)Mark 4:3-8 (14-20)Luke 8:5-8 (11-15)
Most messages on this passage discuss it from the standpoint of the four soils. I want to look at it in terms of what it teaches us about doing ministry today. I find at least eight principles that both challenge and encourage us.
1A Build Your Ministry on the Word of God.
2A Good ministry produces differing and unpredictable results in the hearers.
This is the central teaching of the parable. Remember that there is nothing wrong with the seed. The same seed that the birds eat is the same seed that produces a good crop. And it's the same seed that produces a plant that withers away or gets choked by the thorns. Good ministry can't be defined solely in terms of its visible results.
Good ministry is like that. A man may see huge results in one church and then struggle for years in another church. One tribe is open to the gospel; another is resistant. One city welcomes missionaries; another opposes them. And so it goes around the world.
And you can't know in advance how your ministry will be received. Past success may be a good indicator but it is not a guarantee. That's why Jesus told this story. Our job is sow the seed but as we sow, we need to realistic and not starry-eyed dreamers. Some seed will fall on the hard path, some on the stony ground, some on thorny soil, and some will fall on good soil. But you can't know in advance where all the seeds will fall!
Good ministry of the Word produces differing results. That happens in every church and in every ministry. Jesus told this story so we won't be surprised and we won't be discouraged when things don't go the way we expected.
3A Don’’t be misled by early success.
Often when we enter a new ministry, there is a sudden growth spurt. I remember being told in seminary that when a pastor goes to a new church, there is generally a quick rise in attendance followed by a plateau followed by a period of much slower growth. This makes sense because a new pastor brings new excitement, a fresh perspective, new ideas and an infusion of energy. It's not unusual for people to come to church to check out the new guy. So the first few months of a new ministry normally produce a bump in attendance. It's easy for a pastor to be misled by that bump. He can start to think, "Hey, this is easy." The ministry may be many things, but it is not easy.
I can remember my first pastorate. I went to a small church in Minford, Ohio and the attendance went from 12 to 90 in three months and then the deacons asked me to resign. I did in resign after four years. This happen again in Altoona, Kansas, an in one month they ask me to resign, and so I did sixteen years later.
No one told me about that. Things were very level. Extremely level.The plateau seemed to go on forever.
And I discovered that some people that seemed so excited at the beginning began to drift away. The very people who wanted me to come, left in three months. Some left No problems. No controversy. They just disappeared. Others left for various reasons. other.
But that's precisely what Jesus told us to expect. I find it fascinating that the longest portion of Jesus' explanation (vv. 19-21) deals with the seed that feel on stony ground. Remember, it sprang up quickly. Early success! Nothing better than that. We're going to have a bumper crop this year. But that seed sprang up quickly because it had no deep roots. When the sun beat down, the young plants withered and died.
Think of it this way. Three of the four soils responded positively at first. But only one produced lasting fruit.