Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Stories of the Thirsty
The Need to Focus on the Fertile Soil
By Jerry Wiles, President Emeritus, Living Water International
Special to ASSIST News Service
HOUSTON, TX (ANS) -- It is amazing, and sometimes surprising, how many people are receptive to discussing what it means to have a relationship with the Lord and become a follower of Jesus. So many people today seem to be resistant to institutional religion, even institutionalized Christianity. However, they are open and eager to explore what it means to know God personally and discover a relevant relationship with Him. Time and time again we see how the Holy Spirit bears witness to His Word, the Story(s) of Jesus, when presented in a sensitive way. It’s not complicated, and it is something we can all participate in.
We should never write people off, or assume they are unresponsive, simply because they do not receive our message initially. However, it is valuable to recognize the principle we learn from the parable of the Sower, recorded in Mark 4, and seek to discern the condition of people’s hearts and their level of interest. The hard, shallow or crowded hearts will respond very differently than the fertile, receptive hearts. That doesn’t mean we should not sow the Seed of God’s Word in all of those, but once we discover the open, receptive and fertile hearts, we can focus more time and attention on them.
In other words, we should sow widely, but focus more on those who demonstrate openness, interest and curiosity, and have a teachable spirit and attitude. Not everyone will receive the Good News of Jesus, but everyone should have the opportunity to hear, understand and respond to Him.
Many times we have to get past people’s preconceived ideas about religion, church and/or Christianity, and focus on the Person and work of the Lord Jesus. Sadly, many in the Church, or institutionalized Christianity, do not demonstrate the Spirit and character of Jesus. In addition, the majority of professing Christians do not show a passion for sharing Jesus. A study conducted years ago showed that the vast majority of professing Christians have never led another person to faith in Christ. Someone has said that there are probably more lost people who are prepared in their hearts to respond and receive Jesus, than there are believers/followers who are actively reaching out with the love and truth of Jesus.
One of the reasons that many followers of Jesus do not attempt to share their faith is that they have preconceived ideas that people might respond negatively if they make the effort. It’s easy to stereotype and profile people based on outward appearance. We may think they might resist our message, and therefore, we don’t even make the effort to reach out to them, but in many cases they are prepared by the Holy Spirit and will be fertile soil for the seed of the Word of God.
Mission America Coalition’s LOVE2020 -- www.love2020.com -- has a powerful, but simple emphasis on Prayer-Care-Share. As we pray for people and opportunities, we can fully expect that God will answer our prayers. We seldom know how others are praying for the people we may encounter in those normal traffic patterns of our daily lives. Simply asking people how we can pray for them will often lead to life-changing conversations. God is especially interested in meeting the felt needs of lost people, so they will realize that He is real and concerned about them. Again, don’t expect everyone to be equally interested, but look for the fertile soil – the receptive hearts. Even in the Body of Christ, not everyone has the same level of passion and desire for the things of God and His kingdom work.
A Living Water worker in the Central African Republic recently said, “We used to show the Jesus film at our water projects, but now we can’t do that since the rebels stole our equipment.” He went on to say, “Thankfully, last year we received Orality Training, so now we tell stories from the Bible at all our water projects, other training events and wherever we encounter people. We can do that anywhere, and at any time.” Our workers find that the people in the communities love to hear the stories, and they learn them well enough to retell them. They discuss them, ponder and reflect upon them. The workers there were excited to observe the impact and the transformation that is taking place in the people’s lives.
I had a long layover at an airport in a South Asian city and engaged some follow travelers in a casual conversation. After chatting for a few minutes, one young man asked my traveling companion and me about our purpose for being in their country. That opened the door for telling some stories about Jesus of Nazareth and discussing some important spiritual truths. It was a very positive experience, and the men seemed to have a genuine interest. As I reflect on that encounter and others I’ve had over the years, I’m more convinced now than ever that people everywhere are much more open than we might think of talking about the Lord and spiritual things when approached in an appropriate manner.
I am also convinced that when followers of Jesus have a passion in their hearts to see others know Him, and begin to make the efforts to reach out to others, they will see the power of the Holy Spirit confirm His word. One of the motivating factors in my own life to share the gospel was being around people who habitually and spontaneously talked about Jesus. Being alert and observing people in our normal traffic patterns will make a big difference in recognizing those divine appointments.
Thankfully, things are changing, and the momentum of the Orality Movement is growing. Increasing numbers of pastors, church and mission leaders are paying attention. When church leaders see the passion and excitement of their people -- men, women and children of all ages -- they begin to catch a vision of how they can equip, train and mobilize storytelling evangelists at every level of education. Many more are now recognizing that these days are transformational in Church history and that Orality really is changing the face of missions and outreach around the world.
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This story is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSIST News Service or ASSIST Ministries.
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