Three myths come to mind as I think of hard soil. First, they know they
shouldnt live that way. I remember when I called on a young couple, Mike and
Debbie. A cheerful pair, they welcomed me into their living room, and I broke
the ice with my standard question: how did you two meet?
Beaming with love, they told how they had met in a bar,
spent the night with each other and moved in together soon after. For them,
this type of meeting and progression into a relationship was so normal that I
doubt they even considered watering down the details for this pastor now
sitting on their sofa.
Of course, some people we consider hard soil have a lifestyle they know they
must escape before it kills them. Addicts are miserable people living on a
deadly treadmill they cant control. But many hard-soil people are comfortable
in their lifestyle and encounter mostly support for it among their peers.
The second myth is that they are not like us. Most
Christians arent so nave as to believe that crabgrass never grows in the yards
of Christians. But too many of us sincerely think that hard-soil folks can be
cleaned up, even saved, but would be better off worshiping among their own
kind. Preach to them in the streets, they say, but dont invite them into our
clean, comfortable church. I think a few Christians would even prefer to plant
a congregation for people like that rather than include them in their own
community of believers.
Truth be told, some of the hardest of soil become the most tender of hearts
when confronted with the truth of the gospel. Ive seen hardened prisoners
become positively sweet when they know Jesus. Im not saying they become wimps.
They become tough in a new, constructive and meaningful way.
The third myth: Christians from hard-soil backgrounds will always be too
rough around the edges to minister to others.
See if you can relate to this scenario: its Sunday evening or Wednesday
night, and a recovering alcoholic stands and relates his testimony. He served
the bottle once, he says, but now he serves the risen Savior. His nose is a bit
crooked from too many barroom fights, but his eyes twinkle with the joy of the
Lord. You feel moisture on your cheek and know with every fiber in you that
this man will spend eternity in heaven. Yet, deep down, you never really expect
him to amount to much beyond being the drunk who God made sober.
Truth is, some of the most effective people in ministrypastors and laitycome
from just such a background. I have in mind one of the most erudite Bible
scholars on radio. His presentation is polished and compelling. But, when he
first heard the gospel, he had just answered the door of an apartment where he
lived with a woman who was not his wife. Two people using the witnessing
principles of Evangelism Explosion knocked, and he answered, bare-chested and
swilling a beer. Yet, without condemning his lifestyle, these lay evangelists
introduced him to Christ, and over time he became one of the most effective
Christian apologists of the last decade.
We can be sure of Christs power over anyone by reading of Sauls
transformation to become Paul and his admission of hardness, For you have
heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the
Church of God and tried to destroy it (Galatians 1:13), and Pauls
unwavering belief that his hardness made his message effective, Christ
Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. But for that
very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus
might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe
on him and receive eternal life (1Timothy 1:15-16).
Bob Reccord is president of the North American Mission Board, SBC. His
latest book is Beneath the Surface: Steering Clear of Dangers that Could
Leave You Shipwrecked (Broadman and Holman 2002). He is the host of
the Baptist Hour which airs on more than 400 radio stations and at
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