The Bare Soul - January 29, 2012
Residual Evangelism

Matthew 13:3 - And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, "Behold, the sower went out to sow;"

When I was young, my father worked a variety of jobs. However, he seemed the happiness when he was in sales. No matter what he sold, I remember him telling me how important it was to gain the trust of his clients. When he enjoyed a reciprocal relationship of trust with his customer, then they usually continued month after to month to buy his wares---whatever goods or services that might be. This was his favorite type of selling, returning every so often and simply writing up the orders. This is commonly called residual or passive sales where my father did little or nothing but continue to keep his customer amply supplied. He was merely reaping the benefit of either himself or others in his company who had done the work prior to gaining this lucrative client. There were usually only two reasons why the customer would discontinue their regular orders. The first and foremost reason was customer service and the second was product quality. Customer service could mean any number of things ranging from price to delivery or even my dad's likeability. Product, including quality and overall need would often be downplayed if customer service was exceptional. Often, passive sales would continue long after their need basically because many folks who bought from my father liked him and wanted to continue to support him.

I have often thought about what our ledgers in heaven might look like regarding our Christian witness. What type of spiritual income is being reaped for the kingdom? It is estimated that only 5 percent of believers share their faith in the Lord Jesus. Of these, only 10 percent aggressively seek to make "quota" as the Lord commanded us in the Great Commission, to take the gospel to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:19). There is something to be said for the man or woman who will continually go forth and sow seed, as Jesus outlined in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23). The sower's attitude is not one of indifference regarding the seed that will not reach maturity, but of deference to the seed which will. For he knows there must be of necessity those who will not respond, but he must channel his hope toward those who will sprout and bear a harvest. Sowing seed is much like going on sales calls. You can't "cherry pick," my father would say. In other words, a good salesman doesn't try to pre-determine where the sale will come from. He simply must blanket an area thoroughly. The sower does the same thing. He has no idea which seeds will spring to life and which won't. He can only cast the seed and God causes the growth.

When a farmer turns a field under after harvest and lets it lie fallow the next year, he often finds a predictable outcome the next growing season. A volunteer crop has sprouted and begun to grow from the seed of the previous year. The sower put forth no effort to sow this seed, yet it nonetheless sprang forth as faithfully as the year before. This residual or passive growth was the result of previous effort and was a testimony of the seed both planted and harvested in previous seasons. As in both sales and in sowing seed, there is never any assurance when or if prospective clients or crops will be harvested. However, the diligence to present both a product to a customer or to plant a seed in the earth are essential. Otherwise, there can be no favorable outcome if only wishing is the strategy and action is not present. Regarding evangelism, Paul spoke of the importance of him planting the seed and Apollos watering, and finally God causing the growth (I Corinthians 3:6). Continual sowing and watering will lead to eventual harvest. This is the principle in Paul's words. Of great importance is not to give up. Spiritual seed that is sown into someone's life may lie dormant for two, three, or 10 years until someone else comes and waters it. Then, salvation is birthed in that heart because of the faithfulness of both the sower and the one who waters. This residual or passive evangelism is often the work of others who have labored before us. All we need to do is be faithful to sow and reap as the Lord instructs.

Many of us have been sowing seed for years into others lives. While some of us have sowed, others have watered seeds which are just now coming to life after a long period of dormancy. Others have tried to "sell" the gospel to those who would never buy in the past. Now, however, some are finding these more than ready to "buy in" to the good news. We can never know when our words or actions will be leading someone closer to the Lord. The next time a person hears the gospel invitation may be the time they accept Christ's offer. We cannot know. That is why it is our responsibility to get out there and continue sowing and watering the seed while others continue to sell the gospel (which, of course, is freely given!). While it may appear some are reaping residual harvests, these are merely souls who have been sought for, prayed over, and finally brought into the kingdom through much diligence. The great tragedy will always be those who won't "buy in" or who's soul will always lie dormant and dead, not responding to the word of God. However, it is not ours to know who is destined for the eternal kingdom and who isn't. We must simply continue to work God's field and leave the results to Him. The residual field others have labored in is ripe for harvest. May we have God's wisdom to know where to put in the spiritual sickle and reap His great desire.

Heavenly Father, May we continue to sow seed and reap Your harvest as You empower us. Help us to have the courage to present Your gospel with love to a dying world, for they are wanting what You are so freely giving away. Allow us the honor to be Your co-laborers. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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