I spent 10 years of my life living in Ft. Worth, Texas and working as a truly mediocre salesman. It’s a wonder I earned enough money to pay the bills. Sometimes I didn’t. I once attended a sales seminar where I learned that sales was a numbers game. The business-savvy masters of the seminar explained, “If you see enough people, you’ll make your quota every month.”
When I returned to work I bragged to my boss that I would spend the next day cold-calling for prospects. I headed out of the office into the Texas summer determined to make the numbers work for me. At the end of the day I returned a defeated man.
“I made 58 cold-calls today, but I didn’t get a single sale.”
“I suppose you could’ve made 59 calls,” he answered. “But someone probably slowed you down by asking a question about your product.”
His answer was a revelation. Although he was talking about business, I saw the difference between two kingdoms: worldly wisdom is obsessed with numbers, but God's kingdom depends upon eternal qualities like listening, trust, and relationship.
In the last 150 years much of the North American church has had an obsession with numbers. We count decisions for Christ. We keep track of average weekend attendance at our church. We certainly count the money in the offering. Like that mediocre salesman, God forbid anyone slow us down with a question. It’s not always been that way: as far as I know, the greatest evangelist in the New Testament didn’t keep track of numbers. He kept track growth. As he traveled from city to city, the Apostle Paul carried with him the memory of every church he planted. He was concerned for the health of each congregation. His heart for spiritual growth is the reason why we have his epistles preserved for us today in scripture. He wanted people to turn to Christ in order that Christ would be formed in them.
Here is a sampling of Paul’s concerns:
- When I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the temper had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain. (1 Thessalonians 3: 4-6)
- My little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! (Galatians 4:19)
- Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (Colossians 1: 28)
- . . . so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ . . . (Philippians 2: 15-16)
Paul understood that scattering gospel seed is not enough. The seed must be nurtured, protected and tended or it will never undergo the transformation from seed to son. From its first contact with the soil to the fruitfulness God longs for, it is the joint responsibility between the one who receives it and the one who plants it as well.
We can begin the week in full confidence that the Sower has done his part. What is ours?