“Autopsy of a Deceased Church”

Thom Rainer’s book, “Autopsy of a Deceased Church” (2014), grew out of a popular blog post he wrote in 2013. In the book, Rainer looks at ten common traits of dying churches based on his research of deceased churches.

Rainer estimates, “As many as 100,000 churches in America are showing signs of decline toward death” (7). He estimates that only approximately 10% of churches in America are healthy, while 40% have symptoms of sickness, 40% are very sick, and 10% are dying (86).

Slow Erosion
Rainer talks about slow erosion, which “is the worst type of decline for churches, because the members have no sense of urgency or change … decline is everywhere in the church, but many don’t see it” (13).

The Past is the Hero
Rainer writes, “The most pervasive and common thread of our autopsies was that the deceased churches lived for a long time with the past as the hero” (18). He adds, “Yes, we respect the past. At times we revere the past. But we can’t live in the past” (21).

The Church Refused to Look Like the Community
“When a church ceases to to have a heart and ministry for its community, it is on the path toward death” (28).

The Budget Moved Inwardly
“In dying churches the last expenditures to be reduced are those that keep the members comfortable” (33).

The money … was symptomatic of a heart problem. The church cared more for its own needs than the community and the world. And no church can sustain such an inward focus indefinitely. It will eventually die of heart failure. (36)

The Great Commission Becomes the Great Omission
When Rainer looked at dying churches, he noticed “Obedience to the Great Commission faded; it usually faded gradually” (42). He notes these churches “chose not to remember what to do” (43).

Members of the dying church weren’t willing to go into the community to reach and minister to people. They weren’t willing to invite their unchurched friends and relatives. They weren’t willing to expend the funds necessary for a vibrant outreach. They just wanted it to happen. Without prayer. Without sacrifice. Without hard work. (44)

The Preference-Driven Church
“A church cannot survive long-term where members are focused on their own preferences” (49).

Pastoral Tenure Decreases
“The problem is that many good leaders are leaving churches before they reach their prime leadership years at a church” (55).

The Church Rarely Prayed Together
“Not coincidentally, prayer and the health of the church went hand in hand. When the church is engaged in meaningful prayer, it becomes both the cause and the result of greater church health” (66).

The Church Had No Clear Purpose
Rainer notes, “the dying churches, at some point in their history, forgot their purpose” (75).

The Church Obsessed Over the Facilities
“A number of the fourteen churches became focused on memorials” (79). Rainer adds, “Dying churches, more often than not, experience severe battles over facility obsession before their demise” (80). This is certainly not to say that facilities are unimportant. Rainer contends, “Being a good steward of those material things that God has given our churches is good. Becoming obsessed with any one item to the neglect of his mission is idolatry.” (80)

At the end of the book, Rainer offers twelve responses that may help churches that have symptoms of sickness, are very sick, or dying. The book is helpful for churches in any stage. For healthier churches, it’s a good reminder to stay alert and to avoid some of the pitfalls and slow erosion that can happen in the life of the church!

Who Do We Promote?

I’m impressed with the attitude and non-self-promotional behavior of Jesus in his ministry!

I was especially struck by Jesus’ attitude as I started reading through Mark’s gospel again recently. Mark begins by telling how Jesus was introduced by John the Baptist; he didn’t even introduce himself!

In the opening chapters of Mark’s gospel, Jesus “sternly” warns the people he healed, “Don’t say anything to anyone” (Mark 1.44, CEB). And, “Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down at his feet and shouted, ‘You are God’s Son!’ But he strictly ordered them not to reveal who he was” (Mark 3.11, CEB).

As things began to take off, Jesus refused to promote himself or even allow others to promote him. “He healed many who were sick with all kinds of diseases, and he threw out many demons. But he didn’t let the demons speak, because they recognized him” (Mark 1.34, CEB).

Once, after a day of tremendous ministry, “Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer. Simon and those with him tracked him down. When they found him, they told him, ‘Everyone’s looking for you!'” (Mark 1.35-37, CEB).

This was a test. Jesus could have easily stayed in the area and rode out his “fifteen minutes of fame.” Instead, he said, “Let’s head in the other direction, to the nearby villages, so that I can preach there too. That’s why I’ve come” (Mark 1.38, CEB). Jesus stayed focused on his mission and refused to be derailed by his growing fame!

There’s a great deal of emphasis today on building your brand. Leaders and public figures do this. Churches do it, too. Bloggers focus on well-designed sites and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in order to attract more readers. The internet and social media make the task of promotion easier than ever!

But, in the church, all of our promotion must be Christ-centered and mission-driven. It’s all about Jesus and the mission he’s given us. Back in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he gathered some followers, and said, “Come, follow me, and I’ll show you how to fish for people” (Mark 1.17, CEB). It centered around Jesus’ mission!

Now, there was a reason Jesus wanted to keep things under wraps early on (it’s often referred to as the “Messianic secret”). Today, we are charged to be witnesses of Jesus and to go and make disciples. It’s no secret. But, in sharing the Good News, we need to learn from Jesus’ non-SELF-promotional attitude, and keep the focus where it belongs—on Jesus the Savior, the hope of the world!

“Breaking the Missional Code”

I recently read Breaking the Missional Code by Ed Stetzer and David Putman. The book aims to help churches become missionaries in their communities.

According to the authors, “breaking the code … means discovering the principles that work in every context, selecting the tools most relevant for your context … and then learning to apply them in a missionally effective manner. It means thinking missiologically” (2).

For many churches, “missions” simply means supporting missionaries and ministries in other countries, but “missional thinking means doing missions everywhere” (3), including our local communities, as well as other countries.

Our local communities in the United States are becoming greater mission fields. In all mission fields there are barriers that have to be crossed. Stetzer and Putman state, “Breaking the code means that we have to recognize that there are cultural barriers (in addition to spiritual ones) that blind people from understanding the gospel” (4). Breaking the code is about finding ways to bridge those barriers.

Bridging the barriers begins with love. If we’re going to reach our communities with the good news of Jesus Christ, we must love people.

You cannot grow a biblically faithful church without loving people and preaching the gospel. But loving people means understanding and communicating with them. Preaching the gospel means to proclaim a gospel about the Word becoming flesh—and proclaiming that the body of Christ needs to become incarnate in every cultural expression. (15)

The part of the book that will stick with me the most are the four phrases that describe the church’s mission. The authors state, “Jesus gave four directives that outline the missional mandate of the church” (30) …

  • We are sent (John 20.21)
  • To all kinds of people (Matthew 28.18-20)
  • With a message (Luke 24.46-48)
  • Empowered by the Spirit (Acts 1.6-8)

Indeed, we are sent to all kinds of people with a message, empowered by the Holy Spirit!

“Shaped By God’s Heart”

I recently read Shaped By God’s Heart: The Passion and Practices of Missional Churches by Milfred Minatrea. I should have included this book in my doctoral dissertation (how leaders shape missional culture), but I missed it!

Minatrea’s definition of a missional church is …

a reproducing community of authentic disciples, being equipped as missionaries sent by God, to live and proclaim His Kingdom in their world. (xvi)

The author argues that over the centuries churches developed a “maintenance mentality,” in which “they retreated to the sanctuary, their place of comfort, growing ever more inward in their orientation.” As a result, “They maintained the status quo” (7). Too many churches are now “focused on survival” (7).

The author distinguishes between “mission-minded” and “missional.” Whereas mission-minded churches support missions, for people in missional churches, “missions is more centered in ‘being and doing’ than ‘sending and supporting'” (10-11). Minatrea asserts, “every member is a missionary” (11). “Missions is not perceived as an expression of the missional church, but as the essence of the church.” (11)

Minatrea describes “four dimensions of missional churches”

  • Love God
  • Live his mission
  • Love people
  • Lead them to follow

The book centers around “nine essential practices of missional churches.”

1. Have a high threshold for membership.

Missional churches are high-threshold churches, and they clearly communicate the responsibilities of church membership. (30)

2. Be real, not real religious.

Minatrea notes, “The hunger for authenticity is epidemic today” (43). He contends, “The litmus test of the missional church is how members live when scattered during the week” (48).

3. Teach to obey rather than to know.

Minatrea states, “The goal of biblical instruction in the missional church is obedience, not simply knowledge” (56). “Their goal is members’ obedience to spiritual revelation” (54).

4. Rewrite worship every week.

Rather than simply going through the motions, and doing things the same way week after week, missional churches incorporate these ingredients …

  • God is the focus of worship.
  • Worship is experiential.
  • Worship is about content, not form.
  • Worship is highly participatory.
  • Worship values creativity.
  • Worship is more than words. (66)

5. Live apostolically.

Today, members of missional churches must be bilingual in that they must be able to communicate in terms that can be understood by those without as well as those within the church. (79)

6. Expect to change the world.

I love this. “The point of the kingdom is transformation” (89).

7. Order actions according to purpose.

It’s so easy for churches to fall into ruts, doing things the way they do because that’s how they’ve always been done. “Missional churches do what they do for specific reasons” (101). In fact, everything in missional churches is done on purpose …

  • They know their purpose.
  • They check that actions are based upon purpose.
  • They let go of what does not serve their purpose.
  • They do only what serves their purpose. (102)

Toward the end of the book, the author argues for simple structures. He says missional churches …

seek to create low-investment structures and keep their mission and purpose as their priority. Their structures must be flexible, capable to adapting quickly to the changing opportunities their context brings to the missional purpose. (145)

8. Measure growth by capacity to release, not retain.

For missional churches, the goal of church growth is not to get bigger. The goal is to equip more people to live as authentic disciples of Jesus Christ. The measure has to do with function, not size. Enlargement is a by-product rather than the focus of growth in missional churches. (112)

9. Place kingdom concerns first.

Minatrea notes, “no significant Kingdom accomplishment will occur until churches value Kingdom more than their own sectarian accomplishments” (127).

Wouldn’t it be awesome if all of our churches were growing in these passions and practices?

Cultivating a Movement: Keep Moving Forward!

We’re at the end of our series on Cultivating a Movement (see Surrender, Rely on God’s Power, Pursue Holiness, Scatter Seeds, Preserve Unity, Pray Through, and Be Moved With Compassion).

I’ve been describing a movement as a people God can move through, a church God can use. A dictionary definition of a movement is, “A group of people who share the same goal and work together to achieve it.” That ought to describe the church!

While this series comes to an end, its importance does not. I consider it part of my job description as a pastor to cultivate a movement. And, the church must keep moving forward!

Comfort Zone
We all have a comfort zone, a space where we’re most comfortable, where we feel fairly safe. But we can’t spend our whole lives there, especially not if we’re followers of Jesus!

Jesus followers are risk takers!

I love what Mark Batterson recently tweeted …

When I think of taking risks for God—willingness to go where God leads—I think of Peter’s attempt at getting out of the boat to walk on water with Jesus. It didn’t turn out so well for Peter, but it was certainly a great lesson, and a great story!

When Peter realized, in the middle of a storm, that it was Jesus on the water, and not a ghost, he said, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14.28, CEB). Jesus said, “Come.”

It started out pretty well. “Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus” (Matthew 14.29).

But that’s when reality set in for Peter.

But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!” Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, saying, “You man of weak faith! Why did you begin to have doubts?” (Matthew 14.30-31)

The focus in the story is on Peter, but I love John Ortberg’s take on the story, which he developed in his book, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat (see my post on the book).

Peter risked it all by getting out of the boat, while the other disciples stayed behind where they would, at least, have something to hang onto!

Following Jesus requires total surrender. Oswald Chambers used the phrase, “a reckless abandon to Jesus” to describe total surrender. Jesus followers must live with a reckless abandon to Jesus!

I invite you to pray the prayer we’ve been praying at Centre Grove for a while: Lord, do something unpredictable and uncontrollable!

We will also need to stay humble, stay hungry, and stay in tune with God! All three aspects are essential if we’re to keep moving forward!

Jesus invites us on a great adventure. Total surrender—a reckless abandon to Jesus—is required. Jesus said …

All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. (Mark 8.34-35)

Jesus followers are risk takers!

Cultivating a Movement: Be Moved With Compassion!

We’re nearing the end of my sermon series on Cultivating a Movement (see Surrender, Rely on God’s Power, Pursue Holiness, Scatter Seeds, Preserve Unity, and Pray Through).

There is clearly a great deal of need in the world. And, the only organization in the world that truly has the power to change the world is the Church, the body of Christ!

But why aren’t we seeing more change and transformation in the world?

Here are three possible reasons …

  1. We don’t think we can make a difference. Perhaps we see the needs around us, but we don’t help because we feel inadequate, incapable of doing any good for others.
  2. We don’t know where to start. Maybe we see the needs around us, and though we care, we simply have no idea where to start or what to do.
  3. We don’t care. Perhaps we see the needs around us in the world, but we don’t care enough to get involved.

Well, if we’re going to be a movement, we must be moved with compassion. Compassion compels us to get involved and to make a difference!

I love the places in the gospels where we’re told Jesus was moved with compassion. One of those places is in Mark 6 where Jesus feeds thousands of people with a little bit of food. The story begins, “When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he was moved with compassion because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6.34).

Rather than sending people home hungry, Jesus instructed his disciples to give them something to eat. With only five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus asked the disciples to seat the people for the meal. Jesus gave the food, which he had blessed, to his disciples, to distribute it to the people seated on the ground. Not only did everyone eat, but there was plenty left over!

And, it all started because Jesus was “moved with compassion.”

Jesus once told a story about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.25-37). In the story, there is a man who’s been robbed and left for dead. After being ignored by a priest and a Levite, a Samaritan (despised in the eyes of Jesus’ listeners) “was moved with compassion” (Luke 10.33). He took care of the wounded man and made arrangements for his recovery. Jesus concluded the story, saying, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10.37).

I’ve also always loved the order of events found in Matthew 9.35-38. We’re told …

Jesus traveled among all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, announcing the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were troubled and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9.35-36)

Jesus traveled. Jesus saw. Jesus was moved with compassion. Often, we wait to be moved with compassion before we go and see. But if we go and see, we will be moved with compassion!

After seeing the great need, and the great opportunity, Jesus said …

The size of the harvest is bigger than you can imagine, but there are few workers. Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers for his harvest. (Matthew 9.37-38)

God is looking for people who are moved with compassion to make a difference in the world for the kingdom of God. Compassion compels us to get involved and to make a difference! This is why we pray, “Lord, break our hearts for what breaks yours!”

Andy Stanley offers some great advice. He says, “Do for one what you wish you could do for many.” This is a great way to avoid feeling paralyzed—not knowing where to start—or wondering what kind of difference you can make. Just start somewhere!

Pray “Lord, break our hearts for what breaks yours!” And, then “Do for one what you wish you could do for many!”

Cultivating a Movement: Pray Through!

I’m in the home stretch of a sermon series on Cultivating a Movement (see Surrender, Rely on God’s Power, Pursue Holiness, Scatter Seeds, and Preserve Unity).

Too Busy Not to Pray!
We often live as if we’re too busy to pray. In an effort to get things done, we cut out prayer time. This is a pitfall even for people in ministry. A. W. Tozer said, “In an effort to get the work of the Lord done, we often lose contact with the Lord of the work.”

In reality, we are too busy NOT to pray (see Bill Hybels’ book of the same title)!

And, this is so important for the church, because prayer is the heartbeat of a movement!

In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches his followers about prayer. He says they shouldn’t pray for the purpose of impressing others. Rather, Jesus says …

… when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6.6, CEB)

After talking about prayer, Jesus turns his attention to fasting, and instructs his followers …

When you fast, brush your hair and wash your face. Then you won’t look like you are fasting to people, but only to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6.17-18).

In both cases, Jesus says God is “present in that secret place.”

In The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson states, “In the grand scheme of God’s story, there is a footnote behind every headline. The footnote is prayer. And if you focus on the footnotes, God will write the headlines.”

Jesus begins his model prayer, “Our Father …” Our prayers are determined by our view of God. Batterson suggests, “The size of our prayers depends on the size of our God. And if God knows no limits, then neither should our prayers.”

Jesus prays, “Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven” (Matthew 6.10), or in the traditional language, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. ”

This is a core prayer for a movement. It’s all about God’s kingdom!

Batterson suggests, “The bigger the vision, the harder you’ll have to pray!” God has given the church a mission, a mission that’s bigger than we are. It’s more than we can accomplish on our own. We must rely on God’s power. Prayer is the heartbeat of a movement!

Some practical ways I invited people at Centre Grove to pray through, especially over the next several weeks (at least through Easter), include …

  1. Use the prayer guide for cultivating a movement (we’ve been praying some of these prayers for a while) …
  2. Develop a prayer idiosyncrasy, a prayer practice that’s unique and meaningful for you.
  3. Practice fasting, perhaps the Wesley Fast (described in this post on fasting).

Prayer is so important. Prayer can never be the only thing we do, but it will always be the most important thing we do! R. A. Torrey said, “There have been revivals without much preaching; but there has never been a mighty revival without mighty prayer!”

Prayer is the heartbeat of a movement!

“The Externally Focused Church”

I just read The Externally Focused Church by Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson (2004). It’s a good book about the church in action through service.

Rusaw and Swanson suggest, “Externally focused churches are internally strong, but they are oriented externally” (17). They are “convinced that good deeds and good news can’t and shouldn’t be separated” (24).

Externally focused churches “identify needs of their communities and start ministries or programs to meet those needs” (29). They also “partner with existing ministries or human-service agencies that are already accomplishing a shared mission in the community” (30).

The focus isn’t really about growing the church as much as it is about transforming the community in which the church exists.

The church has a place in creating healthy, transformed communities. Churches don’t have the luxury of withdrawing from the community. Whether they feel wanted or not, churches must realize that the community cannot be healthy, and all that God wants it to be, without their active engagement and involvement in its life—that’s the way God designed it. (58)

Service, or faith in action, is also part of one’s discipleship. The authors contend, “We learn from the scriptures, but we grow by serving others” (76). They say, “In serving, people have all kinds of opportunities to have their faith stretched” (77). Further, “The way to inwardly build a church is through outward service” (87).

Relationships are key. The authors devote an entire chapter to the importance of relationships. They argue, “The church that develops long-term, trusting relationships with the community is the one that has an opportunity to influence its culture” (94), adding that “Building long-term, trusting relationships with the community doesn’t happen overnight” (95).

On the connection between good works and good news, the authors argue, “Good works are the complement but never the substitute for good news” (120).

They write …

The Christian faith, for the most part, has been reduced to a philosophy—principles and tenets that we believe and can defend but don’t necessarily practice. It is our actions toward others that separate Christianity from philosophy. It is tying loving God to loving our neighbors as ourselves that puts legs to our faith. (116)

There’s also a chapter on casting the vision for an externally focused church. While I’ve always considered myself a visionary leader, the authors argue that all leaders are visionary leaders. They say, “It is a myth that not all leaders are visionaries. If you lead, you are a visionary” (147). That makes sense.

The work of vision is no small part of what a leader does. Rusaw and Swanson assert, “An effective leader spends part of every day focused on turning vision into reality” (150).

Well, if you’re looking for a resource on becoming an outward focused church, The Externally Focused Church is worth a look.

Cultivating a Movement: Preserve Unity!

I’m near the midpoint of a series of messages on Cultivating a Movement (see Surrender, Rely on God’s Power, Pursue Holiness, and Scatter Seeds).

One thing churches must also do is preserve unity!

Sadly, churches can be notorious for their lack of unity. When this is the case, the church develops a bad reputation in a community. So, it’s important for churches to preserve and protect unity!

The church can be known for a lot of things, some good, some bad. When people in a church are growing in Christ and serving the world, they are known for what’s good. The church is at its best when everyone is growing and serving!

The Apostle Paul wrote a lot about church unity. He often referred to the church as the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12, he wrote …

Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many. We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink. Certainly the body isn’t one part but many. … If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it. You are the body of Christ and parts of each other. (1 Corinthians 12.12-14, 26-27, CEB)

On a similar note, Paul wrote in Romans 12 …

We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function. In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us. (Romans 12.4-6a)

Paul’s words in Ephesians are also important. Midway through the letter, Paul challenges readers “to live as people worthy of the call you received from God” (Ephesians 4.1). Acknowledging that unity doesn’t happen automatically, he says, “make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit” (4.3).

To help the church preserve unity, God supplies what the church needs. “God has given his grace to each one of us measured out by the gift that is given by Christ” (4.7). Specifically, “He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (4.11), that is, church leaders.

God’s purpose …

was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4.12-14)

God put leaders in place so that the body of Christ could grow and be equipped to serve. The church is at its best when everyone is growing and serving!

Paul encourages …

let’s grow in every way into Christ, who is the head. The whole body grows from him, as it is joined and held together by all the supporting ligaments. The body makes itself grow in that it builds itself up with love as each one does its part. (Ephesians 4.15-16)

What would it look like if each one did its part, if every follower of Jesus in the church was growing in Christ and serving the world? That is God’s goal. It should be our goal, too.

The church is at its best when everyone is growing and serving!

Cultivating a Movement: Scatter Seeds!

I’m working my way through a series of messages on Cultivating a Movement (previous messages include: Surrender, Rely on God’s Power, and Pursue Holiness).

The Church has been entrusted with the gospel—the good news of Jesus Christ. We have a story to tell …

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. (John 3.16, CEB)

But, if we’re not intentional, we can easily take this gift for granted, or worse, avoid our God-given mission, altogether!

The Apostle Paul wrote, “I’m not ashamed of the gospel: it is God’s own power for salvation to all who have faith in God …” (Romans 1.16).

That needs to be our attitude, too. We must not be ashamed of the gospel. It is the only message that has the power to change the world!

That’s the ultimate goal of a movement—to change the world. In the United Methodist Church, we say our mission is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!”

Stated another way, God sends us to scatter seed that will change the world!

Jesus began the parable of the soils (or the parable of the sower) this way: “A farmer went out to scatter his seed” (Luke 8.5).

A farmer …
The work of the church, and the work of leaders, in particular, is to cultivate. Movements, like harvests, don’t happen overnight; they must be cultivated!

A farmer went out …
By definition, the Church is called out, but it is also sent out. Just as the farmer “went out,” so too must the Church go out into the world. One of Jesus’ favorite words appears to have been “go.” It’s the key challenge in his final words to his disciples before ascending into heaven. In John’s Gospel, the first thing Jesus said to his group of disciples after the resurrection was, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” We are a sent Church!

A farmer went out to scatter seed.
That’s what we do. We scatter seed. We serve. We proclaim. We give witness to Jesus Christ!

The harvest depends on the type of soil on which the seed lands as well as the amount of seed that’s scattered. In fact, one of the lessons of the story is to scatter seed generously. Jesus concludes his teaching on the parable, saying …

The seed that fell on good soil are those who hear the word and commit themselves to it with a good and upright heart. Through their resolve, they bear fruit. (Luke 8.15)

Paul conveyed a similar idea when he wrote about an offering the Corinthian church was preparing …

I want it to be a real gift from you. I don’t want you to feel like you are being forced to give anything. What I mean is this: the one who sows a small number of seeds will also reap a small crop, and the one who sows a generous amount of seeds will also reap a generous crop. (2 Corinthians 9.5b-6).

Scatter seed!
We scatter seed simply by being fully devoted, and growing, followers of Jesus. As such, we’re salt and light in the world.

Another great way to scatter seed is by serving in a specific (outward-focused) ministry in a local church. In fact, serving alongside other followers of Jesus is one of the easiest ways to reach out to people and “scatter seed”!

When scattering seed, it’s helpful to remember Paul’s word of encouragement …

A person will harvest what they plant. … Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up. (Galatians 6.7-9)

Let’s scatter seed. Lots and lots of seed!

God sends us to scatter seed that will change the world!