Implications of Evangelistic Analogies

The Holy Spirit has depicted the great work of evan-gelism with at least four different analogies, each of which supply unique applications and insights to performing the work, and doing it well. 

Farming (Matt. 13:1-23) - Jesus summed up His time in Samaria with the words: “...lift up your eyes and look at the fields that are already white for har-vest” (Jn. 4:35). Similarly, the apostle Paul com-pared evangelism to planting, watering, and grow-ing the seed (1 Cor. 3:5-10), and he compared ma-ture believers to “hard-working farmers” (2 Tim. 2:6). So, what comparisons should we make be-tween farming and evangelism? 

Farmers are liberal with the seed. They know that not every seed will germinate, so they are not stingy with their cast. In the same way, if we want to be successful we will avail ourselves of every oppor-tunity to sow. 

After sowing, the work is not complete. A farmer must maintain his field by returning to it to water the seed and from time to time remove weeds that may choke his crop. Similarly, follow up is needed with non-Christians and new converts to help make growth possible. 

Farmers need patience. As James said, “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rains.” He said this in the context of persever-ing through suffering, but the application works well for evangelism too. We could stand to learn from the hard-working farmer. Often, the challenge we face in evangelism is that we are in too big of hurry to see someone converted. Often, the reason we may seem to be failing is not the result of our style or material, but with us—that we are too impatient. God will give the increase. 

Farmers need perseverance and discipline. Farming is difficult work. In the same way, those experienced with evangelism know that reaching people for Christ is hard work. They know that they need to persevere through many dry seasons (2 Tim. 4:2). 

Finally, concerning farming, Paul taught Timothy that the hard-working farmer must be first to partake of the crops (2 Tim. 2:6). In other words, prac-tice what you preach! What would you think of a farmer who produced food for people that he himself would not eat? 

Fishing—Jesus called his disciples to be fishers of men (Lk. 5:10). What is it about fishing that relates to evangelism? 

Like good farmers, good fishermen are patient. This is why I wouldn’t make a good fisherman—if I’ve spent hours without having caught a fish, I would feel that I had totally wasted my time. But, a true fisherman trusts the process. It certainly speaks to the value of the fish if catching one is so great that it is worth so much time to wait for him to come around. Of course, the actual bite is out of our control. Similarly, good evangelists know that they need to wait for the Holy Spirit to work on softening hearts and changing minds. 

Good fishermen don’t scare away fish. When they begin to detect some inter-est in their bait, they do not immediately jerk the line. Wisdom is likewise encouraged for the evangelist, that he would have speech that was with grace, seasoned as with salt (Col. 4:6). We don’t want to do or say anything that would cause a stumbling block, including “beginning in the middle” in our teaching with those who are still in need of a foundation. 

Good fishermen go where the fish are biting. Most fisherman have their fa-vorite spot. Of course, if they eventually stop biting, he’ll eventually move on to another spot. Likewise, good evangelists need to be open to where people are “hungry” for the gospel. I’m thankful for evangelists willing to endure hardships to avail themselves of open doors and opportunities for the word. Knowing how Jews felt about going through Samaria, imagine how Peter must have felt when he was called to go to Samaria because they had received Philip’s preaching of Jesus. 

Soldiers— The NT uses the analogy of warfare to refer to the Christian’s work of evangelism. Jesus said, “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Mt. 16:18). Paul refers to our spiritual weapons of warfare (2 Cor. 10:3-5), and our spiritual weapons and armor (Eph. 6:10-18). He encourages Tim-othy, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Tim. 2:3-4). There are many con-nections between warfare and evangelism: 

Soldiers need discipline and training. We wouldn’t want to simply send a civilian into war. They wouldn’t be ready. Similarly, even younger Christians can make a tremendous impact for Christ. In fact, young believers are often the best at evan-gelism (2 Kings 5:1-2). However, they quickly realize how much equipping and training play a role in reaching people for Christ. 

Soldiers need to endure suffering. In warfare, soldiers need toughness and perse-verance. Similarly, believers who engage in spiritual warfare need to be tough and be ready to experience suffering for Christ (2 Tim. 2:3-4). 

Ambassadors— In an unofficial sense, Paul describes believers as Christ’s ambas-sadors (not that we have authority to speak apart from Him—2 Cor. 5:20.) An ambassador is a delegate or a representative from a nation, who speaks authori-tatively for their government, thus, they speak as the oracles of the political lead-er whom they represent (1 Pet. 4:11). Whatever the ambassador says or does reflects directly on their home nation. Why does the NT compare believers to ambassadors? 

Ambassadors need to learn the culture in which they find themselves. Ambassa-dors know the culture, the language, and the environment of their foreign cul-ture. Similarly, believers are to become “all things to all men” (1 Cor. 9:22). We shouldn’t use language that is only familiar to Christians, thus making their audi-ence feel like an outsider. 

Ambassadors try to make their home country look appealing. Ambassadors try to represent their culture in an attractive and desirable way, knowing that the for-eign nation will form their perceptions on the behavior and attitude of the ambassador. Similarly, believers are careful to conduct themselves as wor-thy of the gospel, and we try to convince as many as possible to re-nounce their “citizenship” and become citizens of our heavenly country. 

Ambassadors find common ground. Similarly, good evangelists seek to find common ground where possible without compromising truth. Paul and the Athenians might not have had much in common, in fact, he was provokes to anger by their culture, but he did find something—they were both “very religious” (Acts 17).