Thursday, August 3

Do they really understand our message?

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Stephen Bowers is a good friend and fellow IMB missionary serving in South America. He has written the following paragraph in a recent prayer letter that caught my attention.

...Jesus gives us divine insight...when he says in Matthew 13:23b “As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it.” Jesus also says in Matthew 13:9 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. Really and truly UNDERSTANDING the Word of God is essential and absolutely necessary for those who will finish the race and for those who will bear and yield fruit.

Many times I have scratched my head trying to figure out why a church plant fails, why things start to crumble, or where people get their crazy ideas! Could it be that it is as elemental as their simply not understanding the word? Does the evil one really snatch away that good word which has been sown simply because they have not understood it? Wow, that is something to think about!

We assume people are understanding just because we have said the right words and they have smiled and nodded their heads. What has taken us a lifetime to understand and grasp, we expect those we are sharing the Gospel to instantly comprehend. Is it really a surprise when they don't?

The reality in many cases is something quite different than we intended. I have seen this over and over again. People tend to hear what they think you are saying, not necesarrily what you are saying.

Another aspect of this is our tendency to believe people need lots of information before they can really "get it." Often, little of what I am trying to communicate is getting across. All my words are filtered through their own world view, experiences, prejudices, upbringing, etc. How nice it would be if there were a way to get inside someone's brain and see what is really being understood!

Our message is also suspect in that our listeners often question or are confused by our motivations. Why are they here? Why are they telling me this? What do they really want out of me? What's in it for me if I accept their message?

Anyway, I think I'll go back and meditate a bit more on Matthew 13. A key missiological feature is the need for people to clearly understand the Gospel message. It is our responsibility to communicate that message clearly.

5 comments:

David Rogers said...

Excellent post! This is one of the main reasons why, though I do not completely discount the validity of short-term and volunteer missions, I believe the "bread and butter" of world missions must remain long-term "incarnational" ministry, especially concentrating on the discipleship and training of indigenous, local workers who will naturally communicate the Gospel to their fellow people in a manner more comprehensible than we as cultural outsiders will ever be able to.

mr. t said...

Guy,

We have found this is a key to seeing reproduction. We not only seek men of peace, but the "cpm man of peace". Mt. 13:23: "But he who received seed on the good ground" (the word working in a heart prepared by the Holy Spirit), "is he who hears the word and understands it" (real transformation), "who indeed bears fruit and produces" (character and harvest), "some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."

It is not through us, but through our productive indigenous disciples that the kingdom will expand. Not everyone we disciple will turn out this way. But through those few that God gives us, we will see reproduction that leads to multiplying (if we are following a Biblical pattern under the lead of the Holy Spirit). Once we find that person or persons, we "remain in the same house... Do not go from house to house." That will be their job and the work of their disciples (going house to house to evangelize their own).

How do we know that they truly understand? By their fruit! If they are not living obedient productive lives in Christ (teaching them to obey), then most likely they are not among those disciples that we need to invest the majority of our time.

I used to spend the majority of my time with those that seemed to need more help. The ones that would "bury their talent". Now I try to invest more time in those that show more talent and reproduce their "talents". This is another great principle from the Matthew 25 parable of the talents.

What about those that are believers, but they are not productive? We turn them over to pastors whose job is to care for the flock. Missionary ministry is different from the pastoral.

Bryan Riley said...

Sometimes those delivering the messages also let the approval of man get in the way of a true message, which is why we do need to ensure that we are communicating the gospel clearly and truly.

Ken Sorrell said...

David,

Amen! Amen! and Amen!!! If it were easy do folks not think we would have already figured that out?

Mr. T states it well, we know that people understand by their fruit.

Guy,

Another excellent post. We spend a lot of time and energy in this area of our training with missionaries and volunteers. The downside of doing it wrong is what we have termed as "salvation inoculation". There is one thing worse than being lost. It is thinking that you are saved when you are not. We need to remember that evangelism as described in Scripture is a porcess of sowing seed, watering, and then harvesting. Even Jesus did not have everyone say yes to his invitation.

Paul Burleson said...

Guy,

Just wanted to let you know you were prayed for this week.

It is a personal delight as I follow you and several others in your dialogue about the life and work of being Kingdom Kids. You make me proud [in a family way since we're kingdom family] of all of you. Keep it up.