Jesus said, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8). How can you bear fruit that proves you are a disciple? How can you sustain a lifetime of service?
Stick with the proper seed.
“The seed is the Word of God.” (Luke 8:11)
This is the only seed that will bear the fruit of God-ward change in people’s lives.
One of the greatest responsibilities of any ministry leader is to make sure that the Word of God is at the heart of your ministry. Would a person need to bring a Bible to your small group in order to follow along? Does your friend need a Bible at the mentoring sessions you have with her? Is your ministry a ministry of the Word, or are you using some other kind of seed?
Here’s how a church loses a faithful and fruitful ministry: Some well-meaning Christians observe what Jesus teaches here, that the seed of the Word does not produce an abundant harvest in every life. So they say, “There are some people in whom this seed is not producing a harvest, so let’s consider them and try some other seed.”
In other words, “They are not responding to this, so let’s give them something else.”
But here’s the problem: Different seed will produce a different harvest. Different seed may keep people together, and it may create a helpful group experience. But, it will not bring people under the rule of God. Only the seed of the Word of God can do that.
The goal of Jesus was never to keep the crowd. It was to draw out of the crowd people who would live under the blessing of God’s rule. That harvest can only be raised through the Word of God.
Remember, Jesus told the Parable of the Sower, not the Parable of the Bomber. Jesus does not say, “A bomber went out to bomb, and as he bombed, he changed the whole landscape overnight.”
Maybe there are times when you wish that God would drop a few bombs. The structures of evil seem at times to be so strong in the world. We would love to see abortion unneeded and unwanted now. We would love to see the culture transformed by godliness now.
But God works by sowing seeds not by dropping bombs. Christ is telling us that God’s work gets done, not by earth-shattering explosions, but by the faithful and quiet teaching of the Word of God.
Your work as a sower can affect the soil of your heart.
Here’s what happens: You love the Lord and you give yourself to ministry. You take responsibility and you become a sower of the Word in the lives of other people. As you do this, three things will happen:
1. You will get trodden on.
Some difficult experience happens in the course of ministry, and when that happens, watch your heart. Do not become a sower whose heart is getting harder: A father who is so concerned about the unresponsiveness of his son, and what happens is that he doesn’t notice that his own heart is becoming unresponsive to the same seed.
2. As you give yourself to ministry, it will become more costly.
Circumstances in your life will arise that will make your ministry more difficult. When that happens, watch your heart! Do not become a sower who loses your joy.
3. As you give yourself to ministry, your life will become more crowded
As God gives you greater responsibility, it will be harder for you to manage your life. When that happens, watch your heart! It is so easy to become like Martha, who was concerned about many things. Don’t let your life not become so crowded with what you are doing for Jesus that there no longer is room for Jesus Himself!
Trust the outcome of your ministry into the hands of God.
God can change the hardest heart. There will be many times when you wonder what has come of all your work in sowing the seed in a particular person’s life. You’ve prayed for them. You’ve loved them. You may share the Word of God, and as far as you are concerned, it felt like good seed on hard ground.
William Lane points out that in the time of Jesus, farmers plowed after they had sown, not before.  When the plough comes, the hard path gets broken up, the seed gets tipped into the opened ground, and everything is changed!
We serve a God whose plough can break up the biggest rocks and root out the most stubborn thorn bushes. When God’s plough comes won’t you be so glad that you planted the seed?
If Jesus offered to tell you “secrets of the kingdom of heaven” for your ministry, would you listen? Join Pastor Colin Smith for the free course Sustaining a Lifetime of Ministry where he unpacks Jesus’ Kingdom Parables of Matthew 13 that help us embrace God’s perspective on gospel ministry.