Book: Sowing, Reaping and Keeping

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Sowing, Reaping and Keeping
By: Laurence Singlehurst
ISBN 1856840522
Laurence Singlehurst has written one of the best resource books for Evangelism in the known universe. It covers both personal friendship evangelism and also evangelism strategy for churches.

What do We Teach About Evangelism?

We are experiencing a renewal of evangelism. We've had an emphasis on the Lordship of Christ, deliverance and the like, but now it is the turn of evangelism. What is God doing and saying to us? Can we come to some common understanding on evangelism? The DTS serves YWAM and is influential in Training young people. We have got to get it right.

In the 1980s and 1990s there was an emphasis on the Holy Spirit and revelation. On the other side of the pendulum is strategy and the word. We are being spontaneously obedient to the Holy Spirit in evangelism and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Why does it work sometimes and not others? Too many people have become discouraged. We have lost sight of what evangelism is. We need to understand what is going on. Paul 's evangelism was full of the Holy Spirit and strategy. Paul was certainly led by the Holy Spirit to Europe but then he went on to the same sort of places and did the same sort of things. He went to strategic cities of administration and communication and transport. When there, he went to synagogues where he could evangelise readily. If they failed he went to the next category of those who were open to the gospel. Those evangelised could then reach out within the local culture. Paul could relate to them, and they could then reach the locals. They were a bridge into the local people. His strategy for looking after the new converts---local church. There is no dichotomy between the Holy Spirit and strategy.

  • Do we have a strategy?
  • Do we have strategies for the following: Where will we go? What will we do there? How will we keep the converts?

Where Question

Not only should we be strategic in keeping the new converts, we should also be looking at the location strategically. There is still the revelation issue. We wish to give people a positive experience of evangelism. But what is evangelism? Is it only reaping? We want them to have a positive experience of evangelism that bears in mind the keeping strategy.

Are we getting as much for our resources as we should be? Most of our evangelism is here and there. We wouldn't have to keep reinventing the wheel if we went to the same places. Could we achieve more if we fired more of our guns, not all, at the same places. We will keep going to the same places until something happened. eg of Spain: there were four YWAM members in 1975 when we first went there on Outreach and three hundred when we stopped in 1984. If we had had a 'real' strategy imagine what could have been done. Which of our bases are being strategic?

What Are Our Resources?

We have the main DTS outreaches and the smaller team outreaches. The main outreach is decided by the base and school leader. They can very easily be strategically directed and used. Once we have a strategy we need to commit ourselves to the fullness of the strategy. Do we have a strategy? Pray, get a revelation and then get strategic or fit in with the present base strategy. We must use the kingdom resources responsibly. "We are using these resources to bust open...." Main outreaches. How about taking a much longer view of the planning of these outreaches. Steve Jacobs, "I look at the ultimate of what I want to build and then work backwards." What about the small teams? This is decided by the small group leader virtually exclusively. We do want to give them a complete leadership experience, but they could still have a quality leadership experience if the team was somewhat directed. There needs to be more strategic direction. What are the small teams trying to do? What are they building? There are churches in the UK who do want teams and we are in a position to help them strategically. There are some questions that need to be asked: is it cross-cultural? Is it a positive experience?

Working eight weeks in England needs pretty good English language skills. Can our YWAM UK evangelists have some of the resources please. One of the more focused uses would be to keep one or more teams within the UK. Laurence and the evangelists would give direction to where the teams go. We need to see that discipleship and a positive experience of evangelism take place on the outreach. The end use of the outreach must be positive also. Students would probably prefer to be a part of something building and not just hit and miss. We could give the group leaders a choice of locations to pray about.

Are we in a position where we are happy to allocate some of the teams to England? They can speak English. There would then be more tools in our bag to reach the UK cross-culturally. Lists of small teams can be circulated throughout the nation to allow students from other DTSs to join. What is Evangelism? This will help us formulate a DTS curriculum.

Keeping Strategy

One of our weaknesses in our strategy has been in the keeping strategy. Should we be involved in evangelism without beforehand considering the fate of the converts? We haven't often had a clear strategy for getting new converts into churches. We should be doing one of the following:

  • work with a church which has a keeping strategy
  • work with a church planter
  • stay ourselves

We have the possibility of changing this. It will affect the location of the outreach. It is great going into a ripe harvest field but not if the converts aren't looked after. Wesley had a strategy for keeping the converts. He knew what he was going to do with the converts. George Whitfield was certainly a powerful preacher but where are the converts? A few Huntingdon-connection churches and that's your bananas. If I were God, and I'm glad I'm not, I would be inclined to bless those efforts that lead to converts being kept. Are we willing to send teams to places that haven't been strategised?

What do You Think Evangelism Is?

Bringing people closer to God, people saved...

You don't believe that at all. How many of you have been disappointed in evangelism? Why? No one came to the Lord. We didn't meet our goals. I.e. the subconscious definition of evangelism we have is seeing responses to Christ, some outward demonstration. We will never successfully do evangelism while we believe that. Leading people to the Lord is only a part of evangelism. If you subconsciously believe that evangelism is only extracting decisions out of a person then you will approach him with a decision-oriented evangelism. Would you expect a stranger to lend you a thousand pounds? Yet we are expecting them to make the biggest decision of their lives. This leads to 'rocky soil' converts. Mt 13:18 If we help people to make the next step we are doing evangelism. Helping someone from step nine to ten along the Wagner-Engles scale is not more evangelism than from step one to two. Find people anywhere on the scale and help them move further along.

There are two processes going on in evangelism, sowing and reaping. The third step is keeping. We need a theology and curriculum that reflects this. At steps one and two on the scale they need to know three things: God is real, he loves you, and the church is ok. We need appropriate evangelism. In steps four, five and six we want them to know there is problem. Don't use religious words. Sin is meaningless, selfishness isn't. Here is the time for the classical gospel presentation. They need to know they are lost before they can get saved. What then is seven and eight? It is understanding the implications. Many rocky soil converts have never considered the cost and have made their decision based simply on understanding. "What do you think a Christian is?" They are not multipliable. They become part of the church and yet are not really 'dead' to the world. Greatest hindrance to evangelism is wrong expectations. How many DTSs have hopelessly misguided expectations. Laurence tells of psyching the September 1978 DTS up to see one hundred people come to the Lord. Nothing, not a skerrick. Humiliating. The next year went to Catalonia square saw one hundred saved and a church planted. Great, but it raised more questions than it answered. Petworth church ran a restaurant that led only two people to the Lord over five years. They closed it down because it was such a failure. Laurence convinced them it was a raving success as a sowing strategy. Thousands of people left the restaurant with an understanding that God and his church was ok.

We need the right expectations with the right strategy. We can then be outstandingly happy with the outcome. We must sow before we can reap. We could perhaps reap where local churches have sown or sow for others to reap next week. Seventy percent of those who come to the Lord come from relationships. The other thirty percent are the exceptions: healing, dreams, mission.... Relationships are key. They are usually made in the context of something else. It doesn't start in a vacuum. This tells us something about evangelism. It provides a context within which relationships can happen. What are some of the means and methods. Relief and development. Network evangelism is what local churches do. Pioneer evangelism is making contact with people with whom we have no network with. We must sow and reap. We also need a relevant context; relevant to the people we are wishing to reach. It must be people specific. What context will allow for these relationships to develop? All societies will have the same sorts of people. In the UK there are only a certain number of different people. Upper class, middle and lower, young and old, single mums.... We need a strategy that will reach each of these.
Sow reap keep funnel.png

How does this relate to us? We have become a predominantly one-tool company. Expectations need to be related to the reality of the situation. Some may indeed go from one to ten but we can still fulfil the goals of the outreach. We must have all three stages in place before we go. The strategy must link the three endeavours together. A DTS could design a strategy that goes from sowing to reaping to keeping within a month. We will need particularly long-term strategies for Muslim nations.

A Few Practical Examples of Sowing, Reaping and Keeping

Scenario One

We have fifty people looking to reach young people in Seville, Spain

There is a young English couple who are trained and wanting to plant a church led by a Spanish person. The reality is that we may only really reach the tourists.

Sowing 1 What can we do to meet with people?

  • go to schools
  • play sport, plant churches through sport
  • some community service, clean the sewers
  • lively open airs to meet people

Sowing 2 Fewer people, more content

  • context for the gospel---aim is again for friendship
  • local Christian rock band---the music event with gospel presentation
  • attractive event
  • a night discussion group
  • street work plus a coffee bar---put the two together
  • We have gone for a lot of conversions here because we haven't had the idea or skills to get the people further.
  • film or video

Reaping 1 Much fewer people here.

  • looking for something with a reaping conclusion. We are only advertising it among the group that came to sowing 2.
  • If we are there long enough we could run through the cycle four times.

Scenario Two

Ugandan village without water. Eight people for twelve weeks.

Sowing 1 Start with the initial bit.

  • take water experts
  • compare needs of community with skills of teams
  • teach English

Sowing 2 This is the hardest bit. One and three are always the easiest. Within what context can we share the content of the gospel and its implications.

  • could probably do it in any context in Uganda. But, don't let them get saved yet. After some time you can see what makes it hard for them to become a Christian. Need to then preach it with a very high fence.

Reaping 1 Only preach the gospel to those who have heard step two.Otherwise they are not going to be soundly saved.

Scenario Three

Hopelessly poor urban dweller in Dublin.

Church planting family and a YWAM team of six available for one year.

Sowing 1 Looking for the breakthrough people through friendship. They are the ones we are going to build a relationship with.

  • debt counselling
  • kid's clubs
  • family counselling

Sowing 2 Must keep the triangle running.

  • Peter Dobson tapes on marriage and family
  • home enquirers Bible study etc

Reaping 1 Discovery classes...

  • The new converts should be the ones to feed the triangle. We may need to have Sowing 3 or even Sowing 4 in order to feed people through at the right level.

Scenario Four

Canford Magna youth experience.

Starts with a rave with a chill-out room where young people are invited to the 'night bin'. Loads of creativity and energy. The night bin takes place in a dark room with one spot light on the speaker who talks bluntly and directly and relevantly to the young people. We need a dose of Holy Spirit creativity in order to come up with the mad ideas that the kids like to go to. Every sixth bin is a preaching time. Then they go into the keeping strategy structure---small groups. There will be a big drop out at each level.

For each outreach we should put our little triangle on the wall and fill in the steps.