The Forgotten Ministry of Sowing – Guest Rob Coyle

Some people are told, others don’t listen and have to live the lesson. In my first year of full-time ministry I had to live the lesson! I had to live to discover the forgotten ministry of sowing in relation to evangelism.

Way back in 1972 I started with an organization, then known as Open Air Campaigners. We shared the Good News with children, secondary school students and adults in all kinds of format, all over Victoria; sufficient to say that I was in 800 programs and preached 500 of those times in the first 12 months. I was trashed.

In the first 6 or so months I barely saw a cat respond – even with a fish in my hand!

Half way through my first year, I was licking my wounds over breakfast in a place called Piangil, just outside of Swan Hill. The host of our visit, was a lady who had a warm heart for Jesus, she knew nothing of my wounded, weeping, feel sorry for myself condition.

She turned to me at the end of breakfast and said, “Robert, I think what is on the calendar is for you.”  It was one of those old fashioned calendars with spiritual arrows. It simply said “Called to be faithful not successful.” I can still feel that arrow quivering in my heart! How thick can one be! I had to live the lesson, response was the LORD’s job, serving faithfully was my job.

“So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:7
Little did I know that this was to prepare me for the next 40 plus years of ministry.

Seven years later, a group of us, set up an outreach to young people in secondary schools. It was and is still called, Youth Dimension. Was it difficult? It was like ploughing a paddock with a knife and fork or trying to find your lost wedding ring on the 90 mile beach at Lakes Entrance. The students knew nothing of Jesus. Was it Adam and Mary in the Garden of Eden? And so I could go on.

Yes, I could tell you stories of how as I shared the Gospel in schools I saw exciting moments of kids coming to Jesus. Yet for every positive response there were at least fifty that walked away. I could give you a narrative of how churches climbed on board to do ministry in schools and saw conversions but the walk away rate was always high.

Can you imagine how many times “Called to be faithful, not successful” echoed down the corridor of my mind?

Have you sucked on 1 Corinthians 3:8 “the one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their labour.”?  Note the word “Labour”, it is not about success but about effort to be faithful. If it was success, my hero, Jeremiah would be at the back of the heavenly reward line for the amount of success he had. Judah and Jerusalem lay in ruins because of its refusal to respond to his challenge to repent. No success there!

I also wonder where Jesus would be in the success line? Hmmm how many disciples hung around the crucifixion and stood up for Him?

SO what am I saying? Success is wrong? Nuh! Many have been blessed to be given a ministry of reaping in well ploughed fields. Jesus told his disciples ”I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work and you reaped the benefits of their labour.” (John 4:38) If you are reaping, remember it’s because others have exercised a ministry of sowing.

Jesus words remind me of two facts. Firstly, there is a separate ministry of sowing.
ONE sows and ANOTHER reaps.
Secondly, Jesus says it’s hard work.

Isn’t it easy for us to clap the reaping ministry? So we should.  BUT when was the last time we gave as much applause to those in playgroups, in schools, in homeless shelters, in an “impossible” small group, , in the regular visit to the neighbor, in a junior high ministry, where the attention span is as long as a gnats tongue?

A closing word to “sowers”, to those who feel they are spitting into the wind, where you have an unresponsive audience … Grasp sowing, hold it close to your heart, embrace the lack of applause and be faithful for this is the glorious forgotten ministry of sowing. Remember those who reap can’t do it until you have sown.

The last question I want to ask all of us, is,  “What sowing ministry are you doing…. consciously and covering it with passionate prayer?
Sowing is legitimate evangelism.


I share this and more on a recent episode “Learning from the Greats” on The Win Win Evangelism Podcast with Tina Waldrom.

Here is pre-show video grab we did of a few other questions.


Rob Coyle

**EIA is thankful and grateful for this post from one of Australia’s great evangelists, Rob Coyle.
You can read other posts from Rob on his website.


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