How can we evangelize with integrity? As my husband and I lead our church together, this is a question we wrestle with a lot. Namely, in our enthusiasm to see people come to know Christ, how do we resist the temptation of results-driven ministry? How can we communicate the urgency of the gospel without manipulating others’ emotions or fears? How can we present the gospel in a way that is inviting without truncating the message to make it more palatable?

As we have processed these questions and temptations regarding evangelism, we have found ourselves both chastened and encouraged by the Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13). In this famous story, Jesus uses an analogy that would have been familiar to his Palestinian audience. According to Bible scholar William Barclay, farmers at the time would have sown their seed in one of two ways: either casting out the seed by hand or strapping a bag of seed to the back of a donkey, tearing a hole in the sack, and letting the seed spill out as the animal crossed the field.

In both scenarios, the seed would have been vulnerable to variables such as wind or rocky terrain, but because of these two different practices, the identity of the “sower” in this parable remains unclear. Perhaps we are the human sower, or perhaps we are the farmer’s donkey, but it is “God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7, ESV). In this way, the parable is symbolic of three “actors” who are present in the sharing of the gospel—you, the hearers, and God—and until we understand these roles properly, the work of evangelism will be much harder and more burdensome than God ever intended.

Your Role

In Matthew 13, the sower goes out to sow (v. 3), and he sows into all sorts ...

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