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Why Isn’t My Church Growing?

When pastors hear about our work in India and that we saw over 56,000 people come to Jesus just last year, they always ask the same question: “Why isn’t my church growing?” I love that question because it reveals a heart for the lost.

How do I answer? Well, if you’ll permit me, I’ll tell you my answer in the form of . . . a parable. Creating parables may be above my pay grade (or the education I received in Bible college), but I’ll give it a shot.

You know Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. In Matthew 13, Jesus speaks of a farmer who goes out and indiscriminately scatters seed. Some fall on a path, rocky places, or among thorns, where they quickly wither or fail to take root. But “other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop” (Matthew 13:8).

Here’s my Parable of the Sower 2: The Sequel. (Not coming soon to any theater near you.) In my story there are two sowers.

  • One goes out and sows 100 seeds. They fall on a path, rocky places, among thorns, and on good soil.
  • Another goes out and sows 1,000 seeds. They fall on a path, rocky places, among thorns, and on good soil.
  • That’s it. That’s the parable.

Question: Who will get a greater harvest? Answer: The one who sows more seed.


“Question: Who will get a greater harvest? Answer: The one who sows more seed.”


If I was like Jesus, I might just end there, with a “For those who have ears to hear, let them hear” last sentence.

If I was one of those fancy preachers who find ways to rhyme their main point, I might say, “If you want your church to be growing, increase the seeds you’re sowing.”

In a sense, it’s a math equation. Math is not my specialty, but this is a pretty basic equation. From Jesus, we get the idea that perhaps about 75% of the seeds are not going to get rooted or produce a crop and 25% will. The question is this: 75% and 25% of what number?

  • 25% of 100 is 25. So, a farmer who sows 100 seed would see 25 crops.
  • 25% of 1,000 is 250. A farmer who sows 1,000 seeds would get 250 crops.

If Jesus is teaching us a Kingdom reality that maybe only about 25% of the seed we sow will stick and produce a harvest, we can’t change that. The part of the equation we can impact is how much seed is sown.

So, I answer the question of, “Why isn’t my church growing?” with a question, “Well, how many seeds are you and your people sowing?” Because your harvest is always in direct relation to the amount of seed you sow.


“The part of the equation we can impact is how much seed is sown.”


I’ll say that again, so it sinks in: Your harvest is in direct relation to the amount of seed you sow.

You don’t need a parable to understand that:

  • If I plant one seed of corn in my backyard, I may or may not get a stalk of corn in a few months. But I will definitely not get an acre of corn.
  • If I plant corn in a 10 x 10 plot next to my house, how much corn will I get? A 10 x 10 harvest of corn.
  • If I plant 10 acres of corn, I’ll get 10 acres of corn.

But somehow so many believe that if we plant the seed of the gospel a few times a year, it will result in an abundant harvest. We believe that if we have one person (the pastor) planting the seed of the gospel on one day (Sunday morning) a week, it will result in an abundant harvest.

It just doesn’t work that way.

To see an abundant harvest, we need an abundance of seed sowing.


“To see an abundant harvest, we need an abundance of seed sowing.”


Like the sower in Jesus’ story, we need to be indiscriminate seed sowers. Jesus’ parable paints the picture of a man with a bag of seed walking all over, hurling seed everywhere he goes. Preachers may tell the story like this was normal practice, but no, it wasn’t. What Jesus is describing is crazy farming! No one plants seed that way—it would waste 75% of your seed. But that’s exactly what this farmer did. Seed was falling everywhere—on good soil, on bad soil, on rocks, thistles, the road, in swimming pools and jacuzzis—everywhere!

What was Jesus trying to say? I think he was telling us that we can’t know someone’s heart. We can’t look at a person and know if they are good or bad soil, if they’ll accept or reject the gospel.

And, like everything Jesus said, that is so true. Most of the time when I have tried to predetermine the soil of someone’s heart, I’ve been wrong. People I never expect to be open to the gospel are. People I expect would be open are not.

Or think about Jesus’ ministry–would you have expected the Gadarene demoniac or the Samaritan woman at the well to be good soil that produced a harvest? Would you have even bothered to go over to Zacchaeus’ house? No, they all looked like bad soil, but they weren’t.


“Would you have expected the Gadarene demoniac or the Samaritan woman at the well to be good soil that produced a harvest?”


Jesus is telling us to be crazy farmers. To throw the seeds of the gospel everywhere we go. And, if you want more harvest, get more people planting seeds. Our churches need an overabundance of seed sowing, by everyone, everywhere, all the time, if we hope to see an abundant harvest.

We’re witnessing it in India, in Sri Lanka, and all over the world; the more seed sown, the more people come to Christ.

Your harvest will be in direct relation to the amount of seed you sow. So, let’s train our people to share their stories and God’s story and get as many people as possible out there throwing as much seed as possible. Let’s raise up churches of crazy farmers who join Jesus in the harvest.

In other (rhyming) words: If you want your church to be growing, increase the seeds you’re sowing.

For those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

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