SOWING AND REAPING
T. PIERCE BROWN
For almost fifty years I have been trying to encourage personal evangelism and soul winning from the classroom and pulpit. I have conducted workshops on personal evangelism and teacher training. I have taught preacher-training classes. In all of these I have tried to emphasize not only proper methods and actions, but especially proper attitudes.
I have taught teachers how to use the blackboard, audio visual aids and study materials. I have taught personal evangelists how to sit around the table in an open Bible study, or show a filmstrip. I have taught preacher students how to walk to the pulpit and breathe properly. I have taught proper methods of study and exegesis. Not only have I dealt with homiletics, hermeneutics and apologetics, I have emphasized the need for understanding general semantics, enunciation, pronunciation, gesticulation and grammar. Especially have I stressed the importance of properly relating the doctrine we teach with the practice we perform.
There is one aspect of the subject of sowing the seed that I have probably neglected as much or more than any other. That aspect is suggested in Psalm 126:5-6, which says, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”
It is my judgment that much of our failure to produce the great harvest of souls that we should be producing is the failure to feel as deeply as we should the sorrow for and horror of sin and its consequences. Probably one reason we do not feel any more emotion about the sacrifice of Christ is that we do not care enough to cry about those for whom that sacrifice was made. It seems that many of us find it relatively easy to sound like Jesus did in Mt.23:13and other places when He said, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” We do not find it as natural to feel as He did in Mk. 19:41 when he wept overJerusalem. Paul said in Acts 20:19 that he had served the Lord with many tears. Far too few of us have.
I still remember with some pain an event inAustraliamany years ago. InPerth, brother George Bailey had just preached a powerful sermon on “Hell And Who Is Going There.” I had been out knocking on doors all day and just got there in time to sit on the back seat by a small man who listened intently. When the service had ended, he turned to me and said in heated tones, “You don’t believe a word of it!” I was shocked and replied, “What do you mean? Why do you think I paid my own expenses, traveled more than 12,000 miles and am working over 12 hours a day trying to win souls if I do not think souls are lost and want them to be saved?” He replied, “If all these people believe it, why are they standing around after only 30 minutes of preaching, laughing and talking? If they really believed that there are lost people in there, they would still be preaching, or crying and praying!”
I felt a great need to get brother Bailey, or some other great preacher or personal evangelist who was there to explain things to him, for I could not explain as well as I would like. We probably are far more apt to spend 15 minutes trying to explain why we do not spend more time crying and praying about the lost than we are in crying and praying about them.
The tears of which I speak are not tears of disappointment because we are not properly appreciated for our great sacrifices and devotion. They are not tears of frustration because our pet project is not appreciated, applauded and supported as it should be. They are not tears of bereavement for the personal loss of some prized possession or a loved one.
The tears of which I speak, of which we are probably in short supply, are tears of sadness for our own insufficiency, lack of concern and lack of true Christlikeness. They are tears of compassion as we contemplate the lost condition of the majority of those about us and their consequent destiny.
I have heard church members moaning because the elders do not assign them some official task for which they can get recognition. I have heard some wail because the church does not promote some program to satisfy their desire for entertainment, fellowship or ease. But I have not heard or seen many who go forth sowing the seed of the kingdom, weeping for the lost or weeping in intense awareness of the sacrifice Christ made for us.
A few years ago a man left a congregation because of its lack of spirituality. He said he knew it was not spiritual because he never saw a tear fall or a chin quiver when the Lord’s Supper was taken. I asked him how he knew there were no tears or quivering chins if he was partaking properly. True spirituality is not proven by a tearful eye or a quivering chin. Yet there is little doubt that many professed Christians never feel any more emotion at the contemplation of lost souls or a dying Savior than they would feel if their pet died.
I am not advocating that we cultivate the ability to cry on demand, nor that we equate outward expressions of emotion with true concern. But I am suggesting that until and unless far more of us who preach, teach classes or do personal evangelism have the kind of feeling and action suggested by David in Psalm 126:5-6 we will not be able to come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves. As important as techniques and methods are, none of them are as significant as the loving concern that can cause us to weep as we go forth sowing the seed.