Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ecclesiastes 11: Be Proactive to Succeed

Eccl 11:1-6 Send your grain across the seas, and in time, profits will flow back to you. But divide your investments among many places, for you do not know what risks might lie ahead. When clouds are heavy, the rains come down. Whether a tree falls north or south, it stays where it falls. Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest. Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother's womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don't know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both. (NLT)

There is no perfect time to plant--NOW is the time to prepare for the harvest. Don't wait for the perfect conditions: if we "wait for perfect weather" we will never plant, and if we "watch every cloud", we will never harvest. The Preacher (Solomon) advocates proactive approach to life if we want to succeed: "Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don't know if profit will come from one activity or another--or maybe both" (NLT). Procrastination means missed opportunities. If we want a bountiful harvest months later, we have to act TODAY. Today is the only window of opportunity; don't wait for another more "opportune" time"--it doesn't exist.

A parallel to planting and harvesting is evangelism and kingdom growth: if we want a harvest of souls later, we must take actions today. Paul writes, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow" (1 Cor 3:6).  Saying that we are "praying about it," about whether to start an evangelistic programme when the Great Commission has already been given is often just making excuses for not taking action. To pray for church/kingdom growth when there is no pro-active evangelistic outreach is like praying for a great harvest when no one is sowing seeds or planting the crops. Paul has said, "Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2, ESV). Everyday that passes that a congregation is not mobilizing its people for evangelism is everyday lost for seekers to find Christ. The harvest will only come when there is on-going sowing and planting.

Evangelism to be effective must be an on-going lifestyle of the church, not an ad-hoc programe. Evangelism should be as on-going as celebration worship and Christian education or cell life. I've yet to come across a church who is still "praying about" having Sunday celebration, cell meetings or Sunday school ministry. Yet the same churches would tell you that they have not decided to have an on-going weekly evangelism (like Alpha) because of lack of workers or that their workers are "burn out", etc. They would be happy if they have two evangelistic Sundays a year, viz., Easter and Christmas. But the NT church grew day by day for a very simple reason: they were pro-actively sowing the seed of the Gospel day by day: "And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47, ESV).

I believe in Alpha evangelism because it forces a church to make evangelism a corporate lifestyle and an on-going ministry. Unfortunately, this "ad-hoc" mentality towards evangelism remains despite churches' adoption of Alpha. Too many churches are doing Alpha once a year (some even once in two years!), instead of the recommended frequency of two to three times a year, so that there is always an on-going Alpha running for congregation to invite seekers to attend. All kinds of excuses are given for why the conditions are not right to start the next course: no guests to invite, workers are "burn out", not enough helpers, etc. If we use the same excuses for the Sunday Services and ministries, we can all stay at home every weekend!

Churches organize conferences and courses about "intentional disciple-making" but often leaves out the subject of evangelism which is a vital part of the "intentional disciple-making" process. I've come to the conclusion that disciple-making without evangelism is like being equipped with knowledge and skills to be a fisherman but only go out to sea once a year or once in two years! The goal of discipleship is evangelism: "He appointed twelve — designating them apostles-that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons" (Mark 3:14-15). In case, some people think this is only for the apostles, listen to what Jesus says about all who want to follow Him: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matt 4:19, ESV).  In other words, there can be no true intentional disciple-making if the goal is not to produce fishers of men who will preach the Gospel to set people free from demonic powers.

So, if we want a harvest of souls tomorrow, we have to start planting today--and not just once or twice a year, but everyday, week in and week out--so that there will be a continual stream of seekers turning to Christ everyday. What is lacking in most churches is not a lack of people committed to evangelism, but a lack of true disciples of Jesus Christ with a passion for the lost.

Father, You have shown us that You are a pro-active missionary God since Adam and Eve fell into sin. You have also revealed Your Son's to be a missionary whose life calling was "seeking and saving the lost." May You imbue this same passion for seeking and saving the lost in us through Your Holy Spirit. Amen.

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