The Bible describes the process of sharing our faith as a farming metaphor. The word of God is a seed. We do the work of planting the seed until there is a harvest. It is a simple image that those of us in the Midwest can easily understand as we live in the middle of farm country.
This word picture as used in the Bible does give us the primary activities of planting and watering as part of sharing Jesus. But knowing a little bit about farming and even more about sharing my faith I have seen that there are far more actions required to have a successful harvest. In fact, there is a lot of hard work that goes into farming long before the seed is ever planted.
First, the land must be cleared of any obstructions. Trees may need to be removed and grass cut. Then the ground needs to be prepared. The soil must be properly “worked” before it can be planted. This might even include some form of fertilizer to help make the ground the receptive to the seed. Turning a plot of land into a field requires hours of labor to make it productive.
I often view my work in ministry like that of a farmer. I spend numerous hours trying to clear away obstructions that people have built up against faith. I work the ground of people’s heart to soften them up to the message of Jesus. I add in moments that will help to make them open to the work of the Lord in their lives. Honestly, sometimes it takes 3-5 years or more before I am ever able to talk to some people about Jesus.
I work hard to be a good farmer of the gospel. The problem I have is when someone comes along and tries to plant the seed of faith before the soil is ready. Suddenly I find myself trying to keep a small seedling alive in the middle of a pile of brush or the hard, unfertilized soil of their life.
Here are a couple of things that destroy the work I am trying to do as a Christian farmer.
1. Don’t Turn Every Speaking Opportunity Into a Sermon
I know as Christians we applaud the sports star who takes the microphone after a big game and proclaims his faith in Jesus. But you need to understand that their “star” status has given them a unique platform. Some people, inspired by what they see on TV, take anytime they are asked to talk as an opportunity to launch into a sermon. I have found this repels most people from faith rather than attract them. Sometimes the best thing you can do is what you are assigned to do. If you are asked to welcome people to an event, then welcome them. If you are asked to speak about your time in the military, then tell them about your struggles during those times. You do not have to turn every speaking opportunity into a sermon to have a positive effect as a Christian.
2. Don’t Make Everything About Jesus
I once knew a guy who made a commitment to talk about Jesus to everyone he encountered in his life. At first it sounded noble, but eventually, it just became annoying. Some people simply want to talk about themselves and their interests before they will listen to you. The one big tip I can give anyone who wants to share their faith is simple, “Ask questions and listen to answers.” I believe that as a Christian it is okay to talk about racing, football, fishing, movies and just about anything without ever mentioning Jesus. Frequently these conversations will one day break the ground of the hard soil of someone’s heart.
3. Don’t Argue About Bible Passages With a Stranger.
Numerous times people have found out that I was a preacher and they wanted to argue with me about something in the Bible or faith. Quite often these people are searching for answers but me arguing with them will not bring the desired result. In those situations, the first thing I ask is for people to share their story with me. This is vital. Why are you asking these things? The second thing I do is ask if we can set down and have a full discussion later. Honestly, I have never found that arguing or having a heated discussion has ever done much good in the long run.
I could spend a lot of space telling you every struggle I have had, but these are the biggest ones I am dealing with lately. I know that as believers we want to share the gospel and we want to do it now. Sometimes now is not the right time. There is work to be done making the soil ready. I once heard a man say it takes 8-10 positive Christian contacts in a row before a person is open to the message of Jesus. You and I might not be number 10 who sees the conversion, but we might be number 6 who keeps the Lord’s work moving along. My plea is that you are also not the negative experience that sends the work back to 1. Let’s all use our heads and work together for the good of the kingdom.