My Testimony

She was standing outside the mall with some friends and couldn’t have been more then fifteen or sixteen years old. “Hippie Chick” I thought to myself. Long stringy blonde hair, no makeup, bedraggled clothes. Probably a runaway. It was 1968 and hippies and flower children were all over the place pestering people for small change. I was a nineteen year old teenager myself, but we were worlds apart. It looked like she and her friends were panhandling so I glared in their direction to discourage them from approaching. When our eyes met, her face lit up in a broad smile and I could feel my anger rise as she began to walk toward me. She was apparently ignoring the look on my face or she would have seen that I wasn’t going to part with any hard-earned money. I was twice her size and ten times meaner looking, but that didn’t seem to faze her as she stepped into my path, looked directly at me, and asked, “Did you know that Jesus loves you?” OH NO! This was much worse than a grubby, change-begging flower child!! THESE GUYS WERE JESUS FREAKS!  

They could be more persistent than a Jehovah’s Witness, and at the thought of being trapped in a conversation I began to walk faster. She was soon running to keep up, but the smile never left her face, “Don’t you want to know for sure that Jesus loves you and died for you?” “Geez!” I thought, “Who does this chick think she is asking me all these questions! I’ve gone to CHURCH for more years than she’s been alive.” We were halfway across the parking lot when she put her hand on my arm, gasped for breath, and said, “Hey, if we can stop walking for just a few minutes, I’d like to tell you something really groovy about Jesus.” THAT DID IT!!  Obviously she didn’t know who she was proselytizing to! I stopped, turned to her and practically shouted, “No! I don’t want to hear about Jesus! I’m an EPISCOPALIAN”..!!!

When I got home, I read the small pamphlet she had managed to slip into my shopping bag. I had never seen a tract before and I remember thinking how simple it made the Gospel message sound. My church experience told me that theology and doctrine was pretty complicated and was something that only the priests really understood. It seemed like whoever wrote that tract must have left out a lot of the important stuff so they could fit it in that little pamphlet. I read that tract several times before I tucked it into my Bible. The idea that Jesus knew who I was personally and that He really loved me had not occurred to me before...

It was now 1978. I trained horses and was a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. We were at a county fair rodeo when two cowboys approached us. Nothing about their appearance gave me any warning of what was to come. They looked like all the other guys: wide brim hats, gingham shirts with snaps, wrangler jeans torn at the back of the cuff from wearing spurs and the telltale ring in the shirt pocket that indicated a can of Skol tobacco. They walked up grinnin like a pair of weasels peekin’ in a hen house door. Both spoke, “Howdy” and I cautiously “Howdy’d” them back. The one with the trophy belt buckle said, “If ya’ll got throw’d off yer horse tonight and got yerself killed, wouldja be goin to heaven or hell?” I laughed, “I donno. I guess I’d be goin to heaven!” The other one handed me six tracts and said “Well if yer not sure, yah’d better read these.” The tracts were from some organization called Cowboys For Christ and had titles like “Just a Short Ride Across the Arena or To Eternity” and “Your Entry Fees Are Paid”. The thought of my own death was just about the furthest thing from my mind. I was too young and strong to die. But if something happened, I’d go to heaven, wouldn’t I? Waiting for the rodeo to begin, I sat down on a bale of straw to read...

In 1987, I had hung up my spurs and was working on staff at a university in California. In the student union patio area, among the tee-shirt sales, “Save Our Tree” zealots, and the kids hawking the virtues of their various fraternities and sororities, there were the usual students from Campus Crusade for Christ. These energetic, young Christians had long ago given up on trying to convert the staff and instead focused their best efforts on the student sinners. But that day, one insistent young man pestered me into taking a copy of the Gospel of John. I had no intention of reading it, but I was late for a meeting and taking it seemed to be the easiest way of getting rid of this guy.That weekend, I read that copy of the Gospel of John and marveled at how understandable this version was in comparison to my King James Bible. In fact, there were a lot of things about the life and deity of Jesus I began to understand as I read that little booklet...

Today, as a committed Christian and as a Pastor, I look back and clearly see the significance of those God-ordained events in my life. Significant, not because those experiences “converted” me, but significant because each time God placed me squarely into the path of a stranger who cared enough about me to share the Gospel, I found myself one step closer to an authentic, committed relationship with Jesus. I now clearly see how seeds planted earlier in my life were watered, and nourished by these faithful believers. I hope that as the young girl, the cowboys, and the student walked away, they felt no sense of failure for not “bringing me to the Lord” but instead they rejoiced that God had used them to encourage my faith. Had they not provided the nourishment of those Gospel seeds planted in my childhood, I might not have come to know and love the Lord as I do today.   

Our church bus arrived Friday night at the stadium for a Promise Keepers conference and we found seats in the company of 70,000 other men. After the first teaching, one of the leaders stepped up to the microphone and with the same enthusiasm as if he was announcing the locations of the rest rooms, just gave a brief, nonchalant invitation for men to come forward to receive Jesus. I remember feeling critical at hearing such a casual invitation and thinking that it was too bad they didn’t have a real evangelist preach the gospel before the altar call so that they could get a good response from the men. I next remember my jaw dropping in surprise as about 7,000 men jumped from their seats and ran down the aisles to receive Jesus! That moment, I clearly saw the concept that some reap what others sow. The seeds of the Gospel had already been sown in those guys and they were primed and ready! Jesus said to us, "the saying is true, 'One sows, and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor." John 4:37,38 (NASB)

If we become frustrated, tongue-tied or discouraged when we talk to others about our faith, than fully understanding God’s concept of seed sowing will be immensely comforting and freeing. Many of us are “results-oriented” personality types who tend to measure self-worth by accomplishments. We see our own unaccomplished goals as personal failures. We share the gospel with others but become frustrated with our failures at not winning souls. However, we can erase both the emotion of fear and our personal stigma of failure by shifting our evangelistic paradigm. 

We do that when we set aside the “goal” of leading others to Christ and instead just pray for, and be open to, new witness opportunities. Without the self-induced pressure to win souls, we can sow, water and harvest the seeds of the Gospel message without fear of failure. As we witness to friends at work, or to neighbors over the backyard fence, all we need to do is to step out in faith, tell others about the good news of Jesus Christ and leave the results to God. We can evangelize without fear of rejection when we realize that we have absolutely nothing to do with whether or not the person accepts Christ. That part of the conversion process is simply not our job–it’s God’s. The Apostle Paul tells us, “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.” 1 Corinthians 3:7 (NASB) When we catch this concept of seed sowing, we realize that God creates circumstances in which we are simply part of His process to bring others to Jesus Christ. 

God appoints and empowers believers as “evangelists” and the job of an evangelist is to simply tell others of the good news about Jesus Christ. We are evangelists because Jesus has either “gifted” us with evangelism, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers..” Ephesians 4:11 (NASB) or we are “called” to “ the work of an evangelist..” 2 Timothy 4:5 (NASB). When we make ourselves available for God to use as an evangelist, He determines when we are seed “sowers” (those who plant the seeds of the gospel by introducing others to the reality of Jesus), “waterers” (those who encourage and nurture the pre-believer) or “harvesters” (those who bring that soul into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ). 

The Bible tells us to be ready in season and out of season to preach God’s Word.  Our job is to do simply that and let God determine what our role will be. He may give us the opportunity to plant or water a seed of the Gospel message in a person and give us the faith to walk away assured that the person’s salvation is in His hands. God may give us the opportunity to lead someone to Christ after spending just a few minutes with them and then just as we are thinking, “WOW, What a great Evangelist I am!”, God will remind us of the sowers and waterers who went before us. 

One of the great evangelists, D.L. Moody, said that he had never led anyone to Jesus who hadn’t heard the gospel before. In other words, the seeds of the Gospel message had always been sown by others before Moody had been able to reap the harvest.

When we understand God’s principle of sowing and harvesting, we are set free from our old performance anxieties about speaking to others about our faith in Christ. We are no longer constrained by our fear of rejection or failure and it is with a joyous heart we scatter the seeds of the Gospel. Like a farmer who scatters wheat seed and expectantly awaits his crop, we expectantly scatter the seed of God’s word in faith that in His perfect time there will be a harvest! “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.”  John 4:35,36  NKJV

Note: Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN 
STANDARD BIBLE unless otherwise indicated.
Copyright © 1995 John B. Hickman New Hope Ministries