STM Send-Off Message: The Sower Sows the Word
The following message, excerpted from a sermon delivered to members of the Presbytery of Southern California's Team Haiti during a "Send-Off" service at Westminster OPC (Westminster, CA) on June 22, 2014, serves as an exhortation for short-term mission workers on any field.
Together with Christ, you, Team Haiti, are the sower. We can think of Christ Himself as the principal Sower or consider the individual evangelist as the sower, but inasmuch as the whole Church is clearly commissioned to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, it is proper to think of the sower in a collective sense.
So in this sense all of you together on this team assignment are the sower and fit well with the parable and explanation given in Mark 4:1-20. You have been called to a great work, even though it may last for only a brief period. After all, the sower in the parable worked only as long as it took him to spread the seed in a particular field.
Therefore, look on this opportunity with thankfulness. Consider what a high-privilege it is to serve the Lord and be named to undertake work that leads to a glorious harvest.
Note that the sower “goes forth.” In the next few hours you will leave the comforts and security of your homeland, determined to meet the challenge that Christ placed before you months ago. He in effect said, “Who will go for us,” and you pledged to go. Tonight the going is for real.
On a recent visit to Michigan my family watched a farmer bring his machinery into a barren field. He came with the definite intention of planting seed. He left his house with no other purpose than to get seed delayed by a late spring in the ground. It was encouraging to see some of that seed spring up and point to a coming harvest. I remember years ago that some states actually handed drivers’ licenses to kids younger than 16 so that they could drive tractors and the like from their homes to their families’ farm fields. It is with God’s harvest in mind that you go forth tonight with the gospel as your license.
The field of Haiti is your destination. You will not sow the whole field or even the greater part of it. But the Lord has appointed you to a significant bit of it. Since you will be working with children and teens, this bit of field is highly important, for it represents the future of the people of Haiti.
You must consider the field as a stewardship. God has given it over to you to sow. Do so with His wishes in mind. It is His field, one He has prepared for you. Sow it for all it is worth. Be extravagant with the seed. This extravagance is plain to see in the parable. The reason the seed fell in odd places like the path or the shallow ground or the thorns was its being broadcast with exuberance and abandon. The sower wasn’t careless, but he was enthusiastic and determined not to let one square inch of the field miss a good outpouring. Let your field be well-covered.
The sower sows the Word. Of all the things you will be doing─VBS games and crafts and other fun items─none are as important as the Word. The Word of God, the Bible, is powerful to change lives and create a godly society. Haiti needs nothing more than it needs the Bible. Matthew, in his account, says it is the Word of the Kingdom. Whatever may be happening socially and politically in the country, God is establishing a kingdom separate from the affairs of human pursuits. Your sowing will help to add citizens of a better country.
So be sure you know the Word yourselves and be prepared to teach it to those whom God places in your care. Haiti has many voices offering false hopes and deadly directions. But be confident that the Word of God which presents Jesus Christ the Lord is sufficient to overcome the empty words of idolatry and fear.
The parable suggests that there are at least four obstacles to successful sowing: hardness, Satan, shallowness, and the cares of the world. You will encounter hardness of heart and militant resistance to the gospel. You will learn that demonic forces have a strong grip on the lives of the people. Watch out for the shallowness that responds to something new and different but soon loses interest once the novelty wears off. And in a very poor country you will find that the commitment of many is tied to material gain.
But when you feel discouragement, remember that the Lord of the Harvest did not send you there for no result. He will overcome the obstacles. The story of the war hero Sergeant York comes to mind. As a young Tennessee mountain farmer Alvin York worked his own farm and others’ hoping to earn money to buy a better piece of land. Much of his work involved pulling big rocks out of the mountainside so land could be ploughed. He labored night and day with a desperate urgency trying to reach his goal. You will need to approach these spiritual obstacles with the same determination.
In Luke’s account the patient sower will reap a crop because in the main the soil is good. Given the shortness our your visit, you may not be around to see some of the specifics of the harvest. God willing, you will hear about them. The yields will vary according to the sovereign will of God, but yields there will be. One cannot imagine a greater blessing than one day, perhaps not until heaven, some redeemed soul will thank you for your efforts, and you will learn how the Lord did exceedingly above all that you could ask or think.
Therefore, Team Haiti, go forth and sow your field for all its worth!