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(This is an edited manuscript of Joseph’s May 26, 2024 outdoor service message)

Read Luke 8:4-8; Matt 13:47-49 

Those who have been Christians and been in the church a while have heard teachings about this parable of the seed or sower. What we normally do is focus on the kinds of soil and results of the seed and make application to our lives or compare what we’ve seen or experienced. And that’s good teaching for sure.

But I want to expand your thinking of the parable and look at it from a different angle, because when you really think about it this parable screams one particular response or question:

Why not only scatter the seed on good soil?!?!

This is good, precious, valuable seed (it’s the Word of God) and when it finds the right soil it grows by a hundredfold. So we know it’s quality seed.

So why throw good seed on bad soil? The farmer seems a bit careless, a bit reckless. I get a little ticked off when I read this parable! The sower is extravagantly, somewhat wildly sowing seed left and right, just tossing it into the wind.  The sower doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing. He’s really bad at his job! He’s wasteful. He should be fired! He’s certainly not efficient, as there is an incredibly high rate of wastage here. This parable is maddening if you’re a farmer or if you, like me, prize efficiency, effectiveness, and tidiness.

Why is Jesus so liberal in scattering the seed, the good news of the kingdom? Why not carefully pick and choose where to scatter the seed, play it safe and conservative? The answer is this and it’s so important:

God’s heart is so big that he wants everyone to have a chance.

He knows that just one seed that happens to find good soil that produces a crop, and yields a hundredfold, is worth wasting 100 seeds to find. God is extravagant, wild, even reckless, if you will, in spreading the good news of the kingdom. In other words, he’s willing to waste a ton of seed and sacrifice a ton of energy just for the chance that a few might find good soil.

The application here is, to me, so obvious, yet challenging and that is this: we are called to do the same—to liberally, freely, almost recklessly give ourselves to every opportunity and every way possible to spreading the message of the kingdom.

Our job is to be seed scatterers, to sow as extravagantly as possible. We are called to do everything in our power, use all our resources we have, to provide as much opportunity as possible for the seed of God’s gospel to find some good soil, even if only a few seeds actually find it.

To use Jesus’ other parable here, we should cast our net as wide as possible in order to give “all kinds of fish” the opportunity to come to shore. So I hope and believe there’s all kinds of individual application to our own personal lives, namely, to be free and extravagant in sowing the seed of the gospel, not worrying about wasting resources or “will this lead to a good result, will they respond positively?” All that is God’s work. We’re just called to be sowers; we can’t control the soil.

But I want to apply this here to the season we’re in as a church. Part of the message of the parable is that God’s heart is so big and so loving that God believes everyone deserves an opportunity, and we should be “all in” on making sure that happens.

We must do everything possible, explore every angle, use all our resources, and take risks in order to spread the seed of the gospel.

This parable, and there are others like it and other similar teachings from Jesus, inspires a lot of our thinking and decision-making as a church, and I think a lot of the reason we’ve grown is we’ve focused on this mandate to be “silly sowers and nutty net casters”

What I mean is we haven’t tried to hold onto the seed out of fear that we might waste some resources or make a mistake in the process. This motivated us a lot during COVID, when we had to be downright silly in order to keep sowing the seed of the gospel. Some of you might remember all the crazy things we did: outdoor services, sitting in cars and broadcasting over FM radio, separating our facility with a massive divider and running 2 services of less than 50 people simultaneously, family services where we sat around tables just with our own families, and of course lots of crazy online stuff.
Last week I was reminded of our livestreamed “Pentecost drive-thru service” we had!

I’ll be honest, I hated most of it! I get these sick feelings when I see pictures or think about it, it was such a tough time, so much work to keep sowing seed. But because we kept sowing and casting our nets wide, we actually came out of pandemic-era church growing as a church, which is like a one in a hundred story! We went into COVID running one service and came out of it having two services.

God responds when we follow his heart to be willing to be a little extravagant, over the top, in getting the seed of the gospel out there.

And that’s all to this church’s credit, and this has been the story of the church for the last 10 years. You’ve been willing to say “hey, we’ll do what it takes, we’ll try new things,we’ll give, we’ll take risks.” And because of that we’re seeing youth from outside our church saved and discipled and baptized like we did the past month. We have people giving their lives to Christ their very first Sunday here as just happened the last several weeks.

So now we’re obviously doing some renos. And I’ll be perfectly up front, we don’t want to do this. We don’t want to take on the inconvenience, financial commitment, and so on of expansion. But we feel compelled by God’s big and generous heart to create enough space (and a warm and hospitable inviting space) so that we can continue to extravagantly sow the seed to as many different kinds of soil and ground as God will allow us to.

So no offense to any of us, but this reno is not for us! In fact, that wouldn’t make any sense, we’re already here, we’re already committed, we already like it the way it is! We know people and feel comfortable here, therefore it’s not a big deal to us if we can’t find parking, if the sanctuary is crowded, if I’m not sure where to go, if it looks like there’s no seats, if something is uncomfortable. Those of us who are here are past that stage.

I’m not interested in just creating a nicer space for us. Sure, we’ll enjoy it, but it’s not about us, we’ve already had opportunity to receive the seed of the gospel. But our call is to continue to find new ways to sow the seed, whatever it takes, as inconvenient or even inefficient or silly or nutty as it might seem. When we approach it that way, we don’t even have to think twice about expanding and renovating the sanctuary or any other part of our building, just like the sower really gives no consideration to what it’s going to cost to sow seed all over the place.

To not make more room would be to tighten up, conserve, shrink our field, hold those seeds in our pocket out of fear and inconvenience (see Luke 19:11-27), and we’re not going to do that. We’re going to “waste,” if you will, our energy, time, and money in order to continue to spread seed and see what happens.

We have a mandate as a church to exhaust every option that might expand the reach of the gospel.

And we know from studies that non-church people, pre-Christians, whatever you want to call them, that the first few minutes of their first time coming to church are the most crucial.

In other words, that’s the most important time when the soil of their hearts is the softest. After all, they felt led to be here or accepted an invitation. Something in their hearts said “you need to be here,” and we hear those stories like that almost every week. And our job as sowers is create the best possible situation for that seed to take root, and a lot of that starts with hospitality and first impressions.

So will you enter into this journey with us in taking some risks, being willing to be inconvenienced a bit, sacrificing financially, in order to do everything we can to scatter the seed, reflecting the wide, extravagant, almost reckless heart of our God?

Aren’t you glad that God never gave up on you? Kept relentlessly pursuing you? And aren’t you glad other people and churches cast their nets as wide as possible so that you could hear the gospel?

I got saved in an awesome youth ministry at a church that heavily invested in their youth program: financially, in their facility, they were a little extravagant in their desire to spread the seed of the gospel to young people, making kids feel welcomed. I didn’t care about any of that after I got saved of course—at that point I just wanted to worship God—but those things initially helped the soil of my heart get ready to hear the gospel.

So we’re going to do everything in our power here at Oceanside to do the same, paving the way for God’s glory to be seen and experienced by all in the Oceanside area.