Here are my notes from last week’s Reaching the Unreached conference, probably the best Christian conference I’ve been on. If you weren’t there, the videos will be posted on the RTU blog. As with all my conference notes, these are not verbatim, so what I wrote might not be what Andy Mason actually said.
Reaching the Unreached – Andy Mason – Sowing the Seed
What do council estates need?
What do people say, in the media, council estates are like? Drugs, gangs, burnt out cars, crime etc. That may be like your area. People believe social problems need fixing; government programmes, better policing, better schools, education, more money, gentrification, mixed class, stop middle class flight. Of course these things might help. The church is in danger of making social programmes the gospel.
What does God see? He sees sins that needs to be judged. But he sees lost sheep who he loves and came to die for. We should not look at council estates as social programmes but through the cross. Places under judgement and in need of the great grace of God in Christ.
The problem: not social issues but sin.
The solution: not gentrification but Jesus.
The solution is seed sowers. The seeds need to be planted by people. Council estates need us and many missionaries like us or with us.
5 points from the parable of the sower.
1.Don’t forget that you are soil as well.
I am soil before I am a sower. Is the word of God living and growing in me? What is the word of God doing in me? If we know the facts but not the reality it is so dangerous. Jesus sows the seed in us and sows it through us. It must be at work in us first.
Ministry burnout is caused by a lack of good soil, the gospel not getting into us. Do I rejoice in the gospel? Does it make a difference to me? Or am I unchanged by God’s word?
2.It’s all about the Kingdom.
Jesus sows his word to expand his kingdom. He is at work. Our work is about his kingdom, not my kingdom. Jesus is taking over the world by his word. He is an imperialist. It’s not my project. All I do is a little part of what Jesus is doing globally. We don’t know what Jesus will do in the ministries we are involved in. We can easily feel the weight of the world and responsibility of witness and worry about failure. Jesus has been at work long before I was born and will be at work a long time after I am dead.
3.The gospel is powerful, even when I fail
Jesus chooses the image of a seed to represent the gospel. It seems that knives and guns are more powerful. Why not use the image of weapons of war? It’s because a seed might seem dry, lifeless and easily crushed but when it is planted it grows and brings the life of a forest. The seed is powerful. Plant it. We need to be practical, grounded and realistic, make plans which are real. But we need to be most realistic about the power of the gospel.
If we say, “my ministry has been little, weak, few conversions, those who come to faith fall away. Failure is written all over what I have done.” Remember the sovereignty of God in mission. Blinding and deafening people to the gospel. 3 out of 4 times the seed doesn’t grow! The key thing is this. The parable of the sower is not a description of failure it is God’s plan. This is not outside of God’s sovereign plan. God uses sowers to bring life and to judge. This is our meat and drink. Preach the gospel in season and out of season, to do this is success.
4.Our goal is heart change not gathering numbers (counting the harvest)
We sow to produce gospel fruit. The point is to produce disciples who glorify Christ. Numbers can become the focus. But the focus should be heart change. We must focus on heart change. Then we don’t feel so insecure about gathering numbers. Jesus had a small church. His disciples were often failures. But his ministry resulted in a change of heart. This frees us from being worried about people leaving. We can grow quickly but people change slowly. People become more like Christ gradually.
We can gather people by putting on exciting activities. But to change people takes time. Word of God open and encouraging prayer.
We then leave a legacy. The legacy of people who are rooted in Christ. Loving, caring and not confronting sin does not build a church of people who have been changed and transformed to glorify Jesus.
5.Expect to win.
Have I become an American overnight? No but I have read this parable. There is victory in the end. Loads of seed is wasted but the results are huge. The kingdom will grow, the gospel will change people, the harvest will be huge. We might be defeated, we might be failures, but the gospel will win in the end. We can take risks, we can endure set-backs, we can be aggressive to go places against opposition, I can be overwhelmed and fatigued, but the gospel will win.