Have you ever wanted to know and do God’s will? Those are the first words of Henry Blackaby’s popular book Experiencing God. According to Blackaby, the key to discovering God’s will is not to focus on your own life, but on the work that God seems to be doing in the world around you. “God does not ask us to dream our dreams for Him and then ask Him to bless our plans,” he cautions, “He is already at work when He comes to us. His desire is to get us from where we are to where He is working. When God reveals to you where He is working, that becomes His invitation to join Him.”
What an excellent principle - but it is also a very dangerous one. Before it can be applied, a very important question must be answered - How do you know where God is working?
There’s a joke about a man walking down a street late at night, when he comes across another man. The second is on his hands and knees under a search light, busily searching for something. “What are you looking for?” asks the first man. “My car keys”, the second man replies. “Where did you lose them?” the first man inquires. “Down that ally!”, comes the reply. “Then why are you looking for them here?” the first man says. “Because the light is better here”, the second man responds. The moral of the story: We often look for answers where we want to find them, not where they really are.
Where does the average evangelical believe God is working? Answer: wherever things are happening. As a result many in the church have become like migrant workers, constantly moving on in search of a bigger and better harvest. America is not the same place it was 40 years ago. Consider some of the cultural trends: Tolerance and pluralism is creating a growing hostility toward conservative Christians; many believe that America, once a Christian nation, is being taken away from us, and as a result we tend to adopt a culture war mindset. Taking the role of the prophet we prefer justice to love, emphasizing courage and boldness more than wisdom and tact. More and more Christians are retreating from the culture or taking an adversarial role. I could go on but I think you get my drift.
I believe sowing the Good News to the American culture will be the great missionary strategy of the next century. An entire movement of Christians catching a vision for cultivating the American soil by learning how to have redemptive conversations with those around them. I believe that’s where God is working today.
As those who work with youth we can contribute to this movement by revaluing the role of the sower, not just the harvester. We do that by talking about how to sow. Most ministries are geared toward teaching people how to harvest. We must begin to teach how you cultivate, plant and nurture relationships. Our youth must learn the philosophy and basic skills of sowing. Sowing is a long term process that requires wisdom and patience. To be an effective sower I must seek to balance love and justice, and my concern for my listener’s response leads me to consider carefully the most effective manner of communication. The sower takes a long-term view, and uses his art to sow thoughts and ideas today that could yield fruitful crops in the future.
Jesus told us that ministry is like sowing seed on different kinds of soil. There is no doubt that the soil of our society has eroded significantly in a short period of time. Jesus told His disciples that one day, in heaven, both the sower and the reaper would “be glad together.”
But what if the sower decides not to sow? What if the sower decides to sit and watch to see what’s going to happen? What if the sower decides that sowing is too exhausting?
Sowing is not the next new trend in youth ministry; it is an ancient, biblical approach to ministry that was recognized and valued by Jesus Himself. I believe it is time to recommit ourselves to rebuild the American culture by sowing into it the Good News. It takes energy and persistence to work diligently while waiting for the harvest to manifest; using wisdom to know how to speak boldly, yet with gentleness.
Chris Wood pastors at Zion Fellowship in Canandaigua, NY. He and his wife, Joan, have been involved in ministry for over 35 yrs., and it has been fun. They have three children, two daughter-in-laws and two grandchildren. Their family is amazing!