July 15, 2001
PREVIEW the NRSV Bible Faith Sharing New Testament
Our failure to share our faith is occasionally not only our failure to understand the nature of Elohim and the nature of the Messiahian faith, but a failure to communicate with others. (Faith-sharing, chapter 4.) (This message is adapted from Faith-sharing by George Morris / Eddie Fox, composed August 19, 1994, updated November 17, 1997, July 11, 2001.)
Our Gospel lesson today is about sowing seed,
which is an allegory for witnessing of our faith to others. Did you know that the vast majority of people in our country have neither accepted nor rejected the Savior. He is simply not a viable option in their lives. Why? Because the majority has never had Him presented in genuine and useful ways. If we are to witness to our faith, we must discover points of contact between the Gospel ("good news") and the needs of its hearers. Successful witnessing can only take place if the message of Yahshua' compassion is shared in the context of the receiver's experience and language. We fail as witnesses when we arenít on the same frequency as those with whom we share.
Unless we get on somebody's frequency, we will not be effective in witnessing to our faith. Did you notice that the emphasis of the Gospel reading today was not on the sower, but on the preparation of the soil, which impacts germination, growth, and fruit? Look at a related passage:
The emphasis here is not on methods of sewing as much as on the sensitivity of the sower to the soil, the weather and the growing process. We should also be sensitive to those with whom we communicate our stories of faith.
Keys to Getting on the Same Frequency
In communications, this lesson teaches
Having sensitivity to the needs of the hearer, then preparing the hearer based on his/her needs (not our needs) are keys to success in witnessing. And it teaches us that (1) we must know more about those whom we seek to reach; (2) thus we can help them identify their own "deep needs" -- needs that require more than a clinical explanation or a doctorís diagnosis; (3) then we must sow the appropriate gospel seeds into their needs, recognizing that Fatherís grace works to "prepare the soil." We sow seeds into needs.
Peoples' needs are seldom expressed directly like "I need Elohim" or "I need church," but indirectly like, "Is this all there is to life?" or "Why is this always happening to me?" or "I want my life to count for something!"
Beginning Where People Are
So when we witness, we donít begin where we are, but where the other person is. Letís understand that we are no longer living in a Messiahian society, but a secular one. "Secular" means "worldly." People today, even those who think they are Messiahians, have a blinding ignorance of what Messiahianity is and what Messiahians stand for. Less than 50% of Americans can even name the four gospels. Can you? This little statistic proves that people in our society are vastly dark spiritual voids that need to be filled with the Fatherís light and love to be made whole.
The Father has already started to prepare the spiritually barren soil by fertilizing it with his grace. The theological term for this is prevenient grace. The Holy Spirit in the form of Prevenient Grace goes forth before us to fertilize the ground. As sowers of the seed, we use our discernment to determine what seed to sow into the person's need. What is the seed? A bunch of Bible verses? A bunch of rules? Not at all! The seed is our own stories infused by the name of the Savior Yahshua or Nazareth. For it is his name only that is able to germinate your seed in the ground of your friendís need.
Seeds to Needs
The needs of others that we will often encounter are:
1) The need for company
-- people these days feel lonely and rejected no matter how many others are around. Theologian Paul Tillich addresses the need for company in these words:
Modern society and culture offer only a disguise of belonging -- a delusion of fitting in -- a facade. As a result, people today are actuality becoming much more alienated from nature, from power, from neighbors. To those in need of company, we can seed the need by providing company. And because of who we are, when we are present, Yahshua is present; we donít even have to say anything but his name.
2) There is also the need for truth.
People in the world are spiritually dead, yet many are on a quest for spiritual significance. There is a strong curiosity about religion as evidenced in the popularity of cults and psychic connections. The attitude of many is "The world offers everything I need; what more can Messiah possibly offer?" And this is the message that the world is promoting and successfully. But the real truth is that only Yahshua of Nazareth can bring spiritual truth, for he is the way to the truth, and he is the truth. If they seek truth, offer them Yahshua, for he is the truth and the door to truth.
3) There is a desperate need for morality --
even the non-religious are recognizing the immorality of our society, and are seeking some moral standard to live by. It's only natural. The moral relativism that our society is now teaching is the unnatural for human beings. Most of us have an internal, inherent need to be good. The Roman Empire finally fell due to moral bankruptcy. And it's beneficiaries, the peoples of Europe, are the most worldly and hopeless people in the world today. In the past 40 years, the United States has also fallen into the moral sewer. Only Yahshua of Nazareth and his servants offer a morality not based on rules, but on repentance.
4) People have a need for Yahweh among the gods.
People say they believe in G-d (92%+), yet they doubt that Elohim knows about them or cares for them. I wonder what Elohim it is they believe in? We offer the Elohim of love and mercy, the Elohim who is close and dear to the hearts of those who know and love him. The Elohim who is as a loving father or nurturing mother. Did you know that, of all religions, only Yahshua offers us a loving parent?
5) There is a need for immortality.
Immortality today is expressed in a deluge of ridiculous philosophies concepts like reincarnation, past-life regressions, and unbiblical visions or rapture. People today expect to live longer and fuller lives, cramming in all they can, living forever through the wonders of science. But we can offer them the only immortality available in the cosmos. Paul Tillich again:
People have a deep need to live in happiness and live forever.
6) Other deep-felt fears that the Gospel can address through you as the witness include
inner emptiness and purposelessness, the fear of death, the desire for inner peace, the lack of self-control, the desire to integrate thinking (Paul Little), the lack of liberty and identity, the lack of serenity (A. Outler), love and acceptance (A. Maslow).
But be cautious! Many folks know exactly what they want but seldom know what they need. So, we must be able to look beyond the wants to discover the needs. For the wants can't possibly be fulfilled until the needs are. And only faith in Messiah can completely fulfill a person's needs.
When we discern those needs, we can identify points of contact where the Gospel in our own stories might be useful in fulfilling them. When you apply your testimony and the name of Yahshua / Yahshua to a need, healing begins to take place through the grace of the Father. There are four key principles in establishing points of contact for witnessing:
1) We must enter into the other person's world and share their burden,
no matter how we feel about the burden or the person. This is called empathy. Empathy is the ability to see and feel the world from somebody else's perspective. Some people are natural empaths. But if you're like me, I'm often so caught up in my own problems that it's hard to see through to the other.
But Bible scholar Barclay reminds us that
Right relationships can only be built if each of us are willing to walk a mile in someone else's shoes -- and walk the second mile if we are so allowed.
2) We must get involved with people in order to share Yahshua and fill their need.
We are the only Yahshua many others will see. Getting involved is called incarnational ministry -- we become Yahshua in the flesh (incarnate) to others. You see, Yahshua met people at their point of need. To one who was thirsty, he offered water. To one racked by guilt, forgiveness. To one alienated from home and business, he visited and brought salvation to the whole house. To one who was bleeding, he offered wholeness through faith. To the religious, he offered the new birth. And to the hypocrite, he offered judgment. Judgment is a very good thing if it's righteous. In order to offer anyone anything, Yahshua had to be involved in what people were doing. And he is involved today. The question becomes, "If Yahshua is involved in people's lives for the Fatherís sake, are we involved for Yahshua' sake?"
3) We must speak the other's language.
The great miracle at Pentecost was that all heard the Gospel in their native tongues. This is especially difficult for the educated Yankee preacher ministering in the Deep South. After a service at our church in rural Georgia, a dear woman shook my hand at the door and offered a compliment: "That was a fine sermon, preacher. We don't know what you're talking about, but we sure love to hear you talk." We must talk the talk as well as walk the walk if people are to understand.
4) We must be sensitive to the passages in peoples' lives.
People are most receptive when they are "going through something," like death of a spouse, marital separation, jail term, fired at work, pregnancy, an outstanding achievement, change in residence or job, being in debt, family troubles, and on and on.
For me, the best opportunity for sowing seeds is preaching a funeral. There's a captive audience, and every member is hurting. And hurting people need to know that Yahshua has sent a special Comforter for times such as these. We meet hurting people every day, laughing on the outside, but crying on the inside. Let us be sensitive to this; and let us also be helpful.
Summing Up Seed Sowing
Back now to seed-sowing:
This story is really a summary of how we might get on the same frequency as those whom Yahweh has given us to reach for him. Remember as you go,
1) You are a soul farmer.
2) The soil is already being prepared by Elohim's grace;
3) If you are to harvest, you must relate to the soil;
4) Identify good soil, and discern the need, sow the seed;
5) Fertilize it with you own story and the name of Yahshua;
6) Then be persistent in your work and in your prayerful waiting as the crop grows in grace unto maturity. And that is all you can do. Let Father Nature do the rest.