Bring ‘Em Down The Scale
Many years ago during a large outreach in Edinburgh, Paul Filler who was working with Youth With A Mission, shared a simple diagram which helped illustrate the process of sowing and reaping in evangelism. It is easy to understand and if applied, it can help you as you attempt to bring people to Jesus Christ. I’ll pass it on.
-10 -9 -8 -7 -6 -5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 +1 +2 +3 +4 +5 +6
The graph shows how the principle of sowing and reaping operates in evangelism. The minus (-) side is where people are in their transition toward saving faith in Jesus Christ. Plus one (+1) would be discovery of salvation or new birth. People we contact day by day are somewhere along this plane. Our job, in union with the Holy Spirit, is to nudge people down the scale toward saving faith in Jesus Christ.
If, for instance, we meet an atheist who claims not to believe in God, we might be foolish to try to immediately ask him if he would want to begin to follow Jesus. He probably wouldn’t even know who Jesus is. It would be much wiser to be sensitive to his spiritual address and to his heart’s position on this scale, then to draw him down the scale as far as we are enabled. If for instance we had a great conversation and he admitted he thought there could be a God beyond his limited understanding, we should rejoice! He is no longer at a –100 but he possibly moved to a –95. If he left with a positive experience and sensed our service, respect, love and care, the next Christian he comes into contact with may be enabled to encourage him toward a –50… and so it goes until he meets someone who leads him to Christ. One man termed this chain of events as—God’s grace chain. A good term.
Soon after I heard about the scale, I met a young doctor named Paul from Canada. He was sitting on the steps of an art museum at the Mound in Edinburgh. As we began to dialogue I was able to speak to him about developing faith in Jesus. During the conversation I discovered he was a Catholic but had never heard the Gospel. He was searching. After our conversation he invited me to dinner and over the meal we continued our talk. He was very interested. A few days later I returned to his house with a book by Larry Tomzack entitled Clap Your Hands. The book describes Larry’s story of how, he being a good Catholic, came to know Jesus in a personal way. The book helped Paul greatly and watered the seed already planted in his heart. Over the next few days Paul and I continued to meet. The time came when I needed to return home, so I made sure Paul was connected to a great church in the city. Several weeks passed. I then received a letter from Paul telling me how he began to go the church and had finally made a decision to allow the Lord Jesus into his life. One of the members of the church had continued to talk with Paul and ushered him into saving faith.
This story illustrates how the graph works. I could have easily been discouraged in my effort to reach Paul if I had not understood the principle. However understanding, I was able to water the seeds already planted in his heart by the Catholic Church. He was probably at a –50 on the scale; He had a concept of God, an awareness of his need and was searching. Perhaps as a result of our time together and reading Larry’s book he may have been moved to a –10 on the scale. By the movement of the Holy Spirit upon his life, going to church hearing the messages and experiencing the love of the members of the church, he may have been moved to a –5 on the scale. At just the right time a specific person was able to encourage him to give his life to Christ and God brought the increase as Paul discovered faith in Jesus Christ and was born again, now a +1 in the Kingdom of God. He is currently married to a great Christian girl has several children and is living in Canada. Paul is an example of how most people come progressively to saving faith in Jesus Christ. This is the norm. As you can see, the pressure is off. Our job is to sow and water seeds in faith. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to bring the increase. I can relax as I seek to become God’s co-worker.
At this point it is also important to remember apostle Paul’s exhortation, ‘Each one should be careful how he builds.’ (1 Corinthians 3:10NIV) We not only need to communicate the good news with our words but with our lives as well. It is possible to send people quickly back up the negative side of the scale. If we are ungracious, uncaring, unloving and insensitive as we communicate we may do more harm, than good. We need to understand evangelism is about bringing people with real needs to a God who loves them and is interested in their lives. The Holy Spirit woos, and the kindness of God does lead to repentance. We do need wisdom. People are very different and no two people are the same. The Four Spiritual Laws may work for some, but might not work for others. Evangelism is more than developing a certain method. Developing sensitivity toward God, learning to have a caring heart, a listening ear and using wisdom when you communicate makes a good witness. Proverbs says, ‘…He who wins souls is wise.’
While living in Pensacola helping a church develop Servant Evangelism and an outward focus, I heard a story about a couple of zealous bible college students who had noticed a car that had a flat tire. They walked up to the car and said something like, ‘See you had a flat tire. Did you ever think what would have happened if you had been killed when the tire went flat? Where would you go, heaven or hell?’ The startled couple, searched for an answer and an aggressive conversation continued. After the talk the young men walked away. Probably thinking they had notched up another great experience. The sad thing…they didn’t even offer to help change the tire! Bring em down the scale? What do you think? The answer for those of you who need some real help… sound the buzzer eeeent…nope. The young couple in the car were unbelieving friends of a friend of mine. They were not impressed, an understatement, by the antagonistic communication.
Let’s rewind and change the scenario. The students walk up to the car and say something like, ‘Hey, we noticed you had a flat tire. We’d like to help you and change it for you.’ Do you think they would have then been able to have a conversation with the couple that most probably would have communicated a positive message? I do. Besides, most people remember our actions long after our words have ceased to echo in their minds.
A Canadian team of teenagers came to Scotland to help reach out to a small town just outside of Glasgow. We encouraged the teens toward the outreach by explaining the principle of sowing and reaping and then began to go and do what they had just learned. We had a great time. As an outcome of our drama, dance, speaking and singing we were able to connect with hundreds of people. It was a fun but challenging time. The teens were from the ages of fourteen to seventeen and fiery. I was personally challenged when a girl of fourteen stood before a crowd of hundreds without fear and spoke with conviction and clarity. We all sensed we were on an exciting seed sowing expedition. During the time thousands of people did not come to know Jesus in a personal way but we all came away very encouraged. There was little doubt that we had done our job and had done it well. We had sown and watered thousands of seeds. The good news… most of the seeds planted went into the lives of people who had never ever heard the gospel before.
One day during the outreach I stopped a young man and asked him if he’d like to answer some questions. He said, yep. So we began to talk. It was extremely interesting. His grandmother had just finished sharing the gospel with him a few days earlier, and here was yet another person talking to him about Jesus. During the conversation I sensed the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit and asked him if he thought there was someone else with us as we were talking. He acknowledged this fact and stated that sensing God’s presence was the reason he was continuing to talk to me. After several minutes I asked him if there was anything I could pray with him about. He said he had a toothache and allowed me to pray. I asked if I could put my hand on his shoulder. He said, ‘OK’. As I began to pray he looked me in the eyes. I think he wanted to make sure I wouldn’t do anything weird. The Holy Spirit touched him. He suddenly became aware of God’s increased presence. It was a great contact. I didn’t get to lead him to Jesus that day he wanted to think things over but as he walked away I could nevertheless marvel at the wisdom and love of God toward His creation. This is the principle of sowing and reaping in action. Some sow, some water and some reap. We can all rejoice together as the Holy Spirit does His work.
The call is clear. We need many workers who are willing to sow and water the seed before there can be a harvest. If we are looking for a harvest, someone, somewhere, must go and do the hard work. Who will do it? Any answers?