Pastor Steve Murrell, president and cofounder of Every Nation, wrapped up our 2021 Build Conference by reminding us what we are to do when we go back to our cities and campuses: preach the Word of God.
I mentioned on day one of this conference that when Every Nation started in 1994, we were a group of 10 churches and three nations — Bangladesh, Philippines and the United States. Ten churches and three nations. Now, after 27 years of doing this together, we are more than 450 churches in more than 80 nations.
The question is, how did that happen? What we witnessed last night…students, wholeheartedly with all their hearts, souls, minds, bodies…How did they end up here worshiping Jesus rather than in a bar or wherever they might have been? How did that happen?
I have a five-word sermon, to answer that. A five-word sermon that will explain our history. How did all this happen? Five words, that will also assure our future, to get to the other nations we’re not in yet. Five words that will explain what we mean when we do relational discipleship. Five words that will define what we mean and what we do when we’re doing biblical preaching. Five words that describe what we do in apostolic leadership. Five words when we talk about global mission. What in the world are we doing? Five words. Okay, it’ll take me more than five words to explain the five words but five words.
Five words to tell you what you are supposed to do when you leave Orlando tomorrow or the next day or whenever you leave. And whoever won the free mission trip—what you do when you get there, and when you get home and on the way there and on the way back. You got it? Five words.
Here we go. Here’s our text Mark chapter four, verses three through fourteen from the ESV, three through fourteen, “Listen, behold, a sower went out to sow, and as he sowed, some seed fell along the path and the birds came and devoured it. Other seeds fell on rocky ground where it did not have much soil and immediately spraying up since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seeds fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. And it yielded no grain, and other seed fell into good soil and produced grain growing up and increasing and yielding thirty-fold and sixty-fold, and a hundredfold. And he said, “He who has ears, let him hear.” And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you, it has been given the secret of the kingdom of God. But for those outside, everything is in parables so that they may indeed see but not proceed, may indeed hear but not understand. Lest they should turn and be forgiven. And he said to them, Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?”
The sower sows the Word. The sower sows the Word. This is the Word of God.
The sower sows the Word. What happened in Belfast? The sower sowed the Word. What happened to those students last night? The sower sowed the Word. What happens if your kids are turning out amazing and godly? The sower sowed the Word. What happens if they’re not there yet? The sower sows the Word. How does racial reconciliation happen? The sower sows the Word. What do we do when we get home? The sower sows the Word.
All right, you remember that, right? Jesus explains this parable. “He says, how are you gonna understand any parable if you don’t get this one?” This is the secret of the kingdom of God. The sower sows the Word. Now, when he sows it, some of it falls on hard soil along the path. If you ever get the privilege of visiting my youngest son and his wife’s home, they have a large backyard and a beautiful garden. It used to have beautiful lawn. But the other grandfather, Lolo Andrew, gave Jonathan Jr. a four-wheeler on his second birthday. And Junior spends hours on that. I can’t wait to get him a two-wheeler, and we will go together into the sunset. He spends hours on that, and their beautiful and expensive lawn became the along-the-path concrete. He killed a figure eight in their yard and destroyed that once beautiful yard. It got hard as concrete. That’s this “along the path,” there’s a path, and when you walk it enough, it gets so hard the seed can’t penetrate, it cannot grow. And what does it say? Jesus’ explanation in the next verses says, “Satan comes and steals the Word.” So there’s this, along the path, Satan comes and steals the Word.
And then there was this next one, this rocky soul. If you’ve ever been to Israel, you see what he’s talking about. We’re not talking about driveway pebbles, rocky soil. I mean, there’s more rock than soil, the rocky soil, and what happens to that one? It doesn’t take deep root. So when persecution comes, it steals the Word.
And then there’s the thorny soil. And it grows up pretty fast. But the storms come in. What do they do? The desires for other things, the cares of this world, this kind of stuff, and it chokes what? It chokes the Word.
If you want no persecution, no choking, no Satan attacking—stay out of the Word. If you want a church that has no persecution, no satanic attacks, and nothing feeling spiritually like you’re being choked, don’t preach the Word. Okay? The Word causes so many problems. The Word will mess up your life. The Word will destroy your comfort zone. The Word will wreck your church. The sower sows the Words.
Now, I heard a funny story from a chapel service at Asbury seminary. I wasn’t there. I listened to the podcast. Dr. Timothy Tennant, the president of Asbury Theological Seminary, and he was talking about this idea of the sower sowing the Word. He was a missionary in India for a long time. And he said this is a strange way of planting—where you’re just throwing seeds—not free seeds. They’re expensive! And you’re throwing them. And some is landing on hard soil and some on rocky soil, and some on thorny soil. But only a little bit is landing on good soil and actually growing and bearing fruit. It seems like a strange way to plant, right? And so he was with a South Asian farmer, and he said, “Now listen, in the in the West, we plow, and then we sow, but I understand that in other parts of the world and the East, they sow first and then plow.” He looks at this South Asian man and asks, “Now what do you call that when you sow THEN plow?” And the guy looked at him and said, “We call that stupid.” Dr. Tennant looked at him and went, “So you mean you don’t do it like that? He goes, “No, who would do it like that? Makes no sense!” Now, we know Jesus is not stupid. So what is he saying here? What does this mean?
As a new Christian, reading this and hearing it preached, and studying this—I interpret it as, “This is about me, this is speaking to me. What this is saying is I need to have a good heart. I need to have the kind of heart that the Word can grow in. I need to get rid of the hardness of my heart. I need to get rid of the rocks that are keeping things from growing and flourishing. I need to get rid of the thorns that are choking the Word. I need to get to the good-heart place.”
And I actually preached this idea as a new preacher—lots of sermons that got people really repenting, trying to get this good soil thing going. I don’t know how many sermons I’ve preached on this, but every preacher has preached this. If you’ve been preaching more than 15 minutes, you’ve preached this text. I actually used to call it the parable of the soils. Because I insisted, this is about the heart. As a new Christian, everything was about my heart, everything that happened dealt with my heart.
And then, after I had been preaching for a while, I really embracing my call to preach. I thought, you know what, this isn’t just about my heart, it’s about my calling. I’m called the sow the Word. I’m called to preach the Word. I need to go beyond being a motivational speaker. I need to go beyond being a religious communicator. I need to go beyond being a self-help facilitator in the pulpit, and I need to preach the Word of God.
Even though Satan will come then. Even though persecution will happen then. Even though things will try to choke me out. I need to be one of those people who walks from the congregation as a part, like every preacher is a part of the congregation. We worship together in song, and then you step up and deliver a Word from God. Maybe it motivates people, and maybe it doesn’t. That’s not the goal. It’s delivering God’s Word to God’s people, not sneaking in from a green room or hovering in from somewhere else like it’s a concert—coming from the people of God to deliver a Word for the people of God.
And so, for years, that was my wrestling. If my goal and my first understanding of this was to have a good heart, my goal here was to preach to good soil. And so in my preaching, and in my sending preachers and all that I did, I actually trained people — look for good soil, look for good-soil campuses, good-soil cities, good-soil nations. And that’s where we went. And that’s what we did.
And when I found people who had hard hearts and thorny hearts and rocky hearts, I didn’t spend a lot of time with them. I want to see thirty-, sixty- and a hundred-fold return. And I had this mentality that that’s not what I’m supposed to do.
When I heard Dr. Tennant’s sermon, another thought came to me. We do need good hearts. We do. We do need to preach the Word. Absolutely. But I saw another layer to this. What if this isn’t really about me? What if it’s really about God?
God is the Sower. That doesn’t mean I don’t need to preach and be a sower. But what if really, God’s the Sower here? What are the implications of that?
God sowed Paul to the Gentiles. They were not thirty, sixty, a hundred-fold good soil people. They were wicked idolaters. They were a hard, rocky, thorny soil people. And God sowed Paul there. He sowed Peter to the Jews, who were not all good soil people. They were hard, rocky, thorny soils. Thank God, He wasn’t like me—only sowing to the good soil. Thank God, Ron Musselman, the youth pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi, didn’t interpret this text like I did for many years. He would have never wasted time with me because I was rocky, stony, and thorny all at the same time. There was no good soil anywhere near me. And Ron kept preaching, and kept praying, and kept sharing. He went through the Four Spiritual Laws probably 500 times. And EE, when Four Spiritual Laws didn’t work, he shifted to EE- Evangelism Explosion. For six months, that youth pastor tormented me. I finally thought, okay, I’m surrendering to Jesus or Ron, I don’t know what I’m doing, but maybe he’ll leave me alone now. Once I surrendered, it got worse. Then came follow-up and discipleship. And you what Ron did? Do you know what he did? The sower sowed the Word. The Word. There are four or five of them? Yeah. It’s what he did in my life, kept sowing even though I wasn’t good soil.
I’m so thankful that God sows in bad soil. Not just good soil, aren’t you? How many of you are thankful for that? My wife and I had the privilege of going to a nation that really was good soil because it had been so the Word for 400 years. There are many nations that haven’t had the Word sowed. There are a lot of rocks, and a lot of thorns, and it is very hard. We still need to go. Got a feeling God will still sow some of us to those nations.
But when I thought about this idea of the sower sows the Word, I couldn’t help, because I sat through a biblical theology class taught by Professor Seth Trimmer. This is what Seth gonna look like later on when he has no hair and shaves his beard. I wore my white sneaker so I could pretend I’m Seth. When he needs glasses one day, so I never wore white sneakers until I saw Seth doing it. I want to be like him. So now listen, when you run across, eight times, and Jesus explaining what this parable means, eight times he says the Word, the Word, the Word, the Word, the Word, the Word, the Word, the Word the Word. Eight times! And a couple of verses explaining it.
As an amateur biblical theologian, I think the Word, John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” In verse 14, “and the Word who was with God and was God, the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” You know what? Sower sows the Word, the sower sowing Jesus.How did that happen? In Belfast? Because these missionaries, sowed Jesus and lives changed.What happened to these students down here? Somebody sowed Jesus into their lives, and everything changed. When we go home from here, what are we doing? We’re sowing Jesus in the lives of people, and everything changes.
Now, God’s the ultimate Sower. What does it mean that he’s sowing the Word, the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. Another one hit me. I thought, if the father’s sowing the Son, this verse I had to dig around and find it. I hate to say that didn’t know exactly where it was but in John 12, later on, it’s right after the triumphal entry and so all of the Jewish believers are just ecstatic about their moment is coming. Here it is, the Romans are going to be kicked out and this is our day. Back to the days of Solomon, this is going to be great. And gee, they say the hours come. Jesus says the hours come to the Son of man may be glorified. Verse 24, John 12, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that way, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth, into the soil and dies. It remains alone but if it dies, it bears much fruit. You go on and it says, this is describing how Jesus is going to die. They don’t want to hear it. They wanted to hear about glory. They wanted to hear about victory. They wanted to hear about winning. Jesus quickly changed the subject and said, “Let me get back to the sower thing.” I mean, Jesus had spent most of the three years of discipleship trying to explain to the disciples, it’s not going to be like that. I’m going to die and be resurrected, I’m going to be rejected. The Messiah is going to be rejected and beaten and disrespected. And everything that you think is not going to happen is going to happen. It’s going to be worse. They weren’t hearing it. Jesus is trying yet again, “..lest this grain of wheat..” God’s sowing, unless it falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone.
But if it dies, what’s the result? Much fruit. We can refuse to die and be alone. Or we can choose to die and have much fruit. We’ve heard that this weekend, that kind of idea.
Now I want to give you the title of my sermon, as I close. As I close, the title of my sermon, actually, the title was “The Sower sows the Word” until I had lunch with Dave. So the title, the new title of my sermon is, “The Cost of Sowing.” What did it cost the Father to sow the Son? It cost him the Son. What did it cost the Son to be sown into the earth? Think about Holy Week, what did it cost?
That compels us to go, doesn’t it? But also, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. You just saw two people on this stage. I think about people like that, what it costs them to do what they’re doing. Think about our campus missionaries, what it costs you to be sown. Think about our church planters. Think about the people that Brent talked about on that video. Nasir, what it has cost him so far to be sown back into Iran. Hong, what it costs him in Hong Kong. Lucio and all the people Brent talked about. The cost of sowing. Every one of you in this room have paid a price to be sown into the kingdom, but when we choose to die, there’s much fruit. Much fruit is the bottom line. Much fruit as a result.
So what am I saying? This last final sermon of our Every Nation North America GO conference. Have a good heart. Let’s not have stoney, thorny, rocky hearts. Let’s have a good heart.
Secondly, let’s unapologetically preach this Word. Let’s just preach the Word of God.
Thirdly, what am I calling you to do? Die, just die to self. That’s all. That’s it. Just die to self.
Have a good heart. Preach the word. Die to self. And every one of those take a miracle from God. So Lord, we say “Here we are, as we said last night. Send us, sow us. Let us be as you did. Let us be the one that falls down, and dies, and bears much fruit. In Jesus name. Amen.”
Transcribed by https://otter.ai