I just got around to reading Rick Warren’s “Ministry Tool Box” for this week, and I found an article that just smacked me right between the eyes. What is funny is I have talked about some of these very things he mentions, but somehow hearing the words come from someone else… well, it was like the Holy Spirit just turned up the volume and it really sank into me.
The article is titled: “How To Recognize Spiritual Receptivity In Your Community.” In it, Warren starts out by saying: “Pastor, you’re surrounded by dirt. To be more precise, you’re surrounded by soil – all kinds of soil. In your community, you have people who are ready to respond to the Gospel and people who aren’t. Your job is to isolate the good soil and plant your seed there.”
He uses the parable Jesus told of the Sower and the Soil to show how some people are open to receiving the Gospel message and others are not.
He stresses that to maximize the effectiveness of our ministry we must focus our efforts on the good soil.
He states, “No farmer in his right mind would waste seed, a precious commodity, on infertile ground that won’t produce a crop.”
But isn’t that what we usually do in the church?
We spend our time, week after week, month after month, year after year trying to coax the same people back into the church that they keep drifting away from. We think we are being good pastors and shepherds… but in reality, we are not. Rather than bringing in a harvest, we are consumed with recycling the same tares over and over.
A statement Warren made in this article that gripped the spirit within me was this: “It usually takes about five times more energy to reactivate a disgruntled or carnal member than it does to win a receptive unbeliever.”
He goes on to say:
“I believe God has called pastors to catch fish and feed sheep – not corral goats! The truth is that some of your inactive members probably need to join somewhere else for a number of reasons. Growing churches focus on reaching receptive people. Non-growing churches focus on re-enlisting inactive people.”
I have been sitting here thinking about the church where I pastor, and I have to confess, most of our efforts (that means me first and foremost) have been on the “wrong soil.”
I have wasted countless hours (months!) trying to corral goats.
Hours are spent each week trying to chase down those that have missed that week, the week before and who show up once a month. (Read the previous article on this blog)
I believe the Holy Spirit has been dealing with me about this for the past few months, and the conversation yesterday which led to my last blog post and this article I read this morning by Pastor Warren have served as the catalyst I needed to get out of the field full of the wrong soil and to start sowing the seed into soil which is receptive to the seed and to reap that harvest.
I will close this with one more quote from Warren’s article: “The message of Christ is too important to waste time, money, and energy on non-productive methods and soil.”