There are some stories that never get old; stories we like to hear over and over. My daughter asks to hear her favorite bedtime stories again and again. Really good stories (good books, good movies, etc.) all have these little hidden gems. Those buried treasures. Each time we hear or see them, we hear or see something new. In my last article, I discussed how stories can help church leaders—not only with their preaching but also with everyday leadership. In this article, I discuss how “The Parable of the Sower” can apply to church leadership.
Let’s be honest. We’ve probably heard this parable a thousand times. As a result, we run the risk of saying: “Oh, I already know what this story means.” What if we listened to the text like we’d listen to a bedtime story?
Some people refer to this story as “The Parable of the Four Soils” because, typically, we hear this story…and our first thought is what: “Which soil am I?” Is my heart the well-worn path? Is my life the shallow soil with no root? Am I living among thorns that suffocate my faith? Or am I the good soil? Please let me be the good soil! Right?
That’s how I have always viewed this passage. That’s how I have always taught this passage. But what if focusing solely on the soil (say that three times really fast) misses the deeper point Jesus is trying to make?
One of the most important questions to ask of all good stories is:
(1) “Who is the main character?” (and)
(2) “What does that character do?”
The main character is not the soil. It’s the Sower! The really interesting thing is how the sower is sowing seeds! The sower is sowing indiscriminately, throwing seeds over on the path, on the rocks, and around the corner near the thorns. The sower in this parable reminds me of the flower girl at most weddings-adorable but terrible aim! Think about it. The flower girl has one job: to scatter those rose petals in a straight line down the aisle! But where do they end up? Some make it on the aisle. But the rest of them are in the pews. . . or on the head of the ring-bearer. I have seen some flower girls wait until they are at the front of the sanctuary and dump all of the petals in front of the altar!
So, either this sower has really bad aim, is extremely wasteful, or there is some deeper truth being revealed.
I believe that deeper truth is this: The Sower is sowing extravagantly the message of the Kingdom. The Sower doesn’t discriminate with where the message falls because the Sower wants all soil to bear fruit…not just the “good soil”. The deeper truth is that it doesn’t really matter which soil you are (at least not initially).
So often, we lead with a “soil” mentality: Where is the good soil in my congregation and how can I get the greatest yield out of them?” Whether it be organizationally, financially, or otherwise, we become preoccupied with our own fruit-producing capabilities: “If I’m not producing 20, 30, 100 times what the church down the street is producing, then what’s wrong with my soil?”
However, leading with a “Sower” mentality frees us to scatter generously the good news of the Gospel to everyone, everywhere, everyday. This perspective frees leaders from the need to compare our fruit to the fruit produced at the church down the street. Most of all, it frees the members of our church—both sinners and saints—to see their place in God’s Kingdom. Each of them have the potential for ministry among the congregation’s soil.
So may you see your story in this Bedtime Story. Rest in the fact that you are NOT the main character; but rejoice in the truth that the main character has called, equipped, and sent you into the world to sow seeds for His Kingdom!