The Lost Art of Pre-Sowing & Sowing in Church Planting

Ecclesiastes 11:4-6
He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap. As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not -- the works of God who maketh -- all. In the morning sow -- thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.

Sowers vs. Reapers
A critical part of church planting that is often over-looked by church planting gurus or never addressed in seminars is SOWING and all that has to happen before sowing begins. The new testament talks about 2 types of church planters: reapers and sowers. Much is spoken about the reaping in mega-churches but little about the latter. This therefore impacts leaders, their teams and the result of the new fledging church plant, leading to discouragement or an improper assessment of the field and call no matter how well funded the work is or populated with laborers.

By the Grace of God I've been a part of 7 church plants over the past 25 years; whether by leading, overseeing or participation on the church plant team - Presently we are planting 2 churches in Philadelphia - Over these years it's apparent to me that people; gifted men & women, quit early in the work calling it "not a fruitful area" because of the lack of understanding of sowing & pre-sowing.

There is nothing glorious, exciting, rah-rah, or rewarding in sowing. It is hard work motivated by a passionate love and discipline with little to no results. Psalm 126.5-6 gives us the perspective in sowing: there are tears. How often have we church planters driven home with a heavy heart after a day of rejection or no-shows? How awkward have we felt when we have been asked "how many ya'll got coming out?" At that point we must lean on what God told us personally when he sent us out to this particular field and gain support on the church Body that sent us. That's when we are tested on our personal conviction about what we are doing as a team or as the leader. That's when the conviction of God speaking to us at a point of time about the mission and the target shines forth and lights the way. If there has been no "RHEMA" from God about the work to the team individuals or the leader, this is where the work fizzles out with excuses or "leadings" to other works.

The "Pre-Sow"
I've never heard anyone teach on this principle of pre-sow yet it is so vital. Without the proper pre-sow any sowing that happens falls largely on unprepared ground thus the seed never taking root. Any builder of homes or properties will tell you that once they have TARGETED an area to build in there is the long process of SURVEYING and PLANNING. We are the same, there are drawings on napkins, maps, meetings, coffee (or tea), donuts and pizza at late night prayer meetings in people's homes. Once that has taken place and a TARGET has been determined in prayer and seeking the Lord's will & good counsel, we must LOCATE. I understand Psalms 107:37 meaning to chose the fields and vineyards carefully and prayerfully that "may yield fruits to increase", the old rule says, "location, location, location is everything". The target may be right but the location of the church plant or neighborhood may be wrong. Don't be afraid to move around a bit.

Then the tedious mundane work of pre-sow begins. Pre-sow is all about prayer, attitude, faith, and love motivation. Like the example of the construction company, there needs to be trees, and large boulders removed, mounds need to be leveled all blockades to the work. We see such blockades of fear, doubt, distraction, discouragement, people's and government's accusations or threatenings, with Nehemiah and Zerrubabel in the work of rebuilding when the Jews returned from Babylon. This pre-sow happens by prayer and much creativity in the community (which much could be said about but I won't address in this article.).

In any pre-sow the soil must be worked, turned, dug into, turned again, and worked. This happens with much prayer, patience in preparation with our hands getting dirty and much footwork. At times when a church is being re-planted or revived the pre-sow takes place in the hearts of the congregation, and the little team of people that rally around you in the work. This may take some time. Be patient. Be kind. Be prayerful. Lead.

What seed are we sowing?
Before sowing it must be clear what type of seed we are sowing. there is only one seed in the Bible that we are sowing and that is the incorruptible seed of 1 Pt 1.23 and the good seed of Matthew 13.37. The supernatural seed of the Gospel of Grace. there is no other seed that grows than that of the seed of the Finished Work of Jesus Christ and His Grace. Deuteronomy 22:9 commands us that we are not to sow different seeds, different messages "lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled." It must be clear what our message is and any deviation from the message of Grace defiles the fruit of the work.

"Sow, Sow, Sow - then Sow some more" - Eccl 11.1
In 1978 my family came into a deeper relationship with God and his heartbeat for the world and individuals. The pastor, Carl Stevens, that led us into that relationship was a pastor from Maine that when he first got saved had a bread delivery route in rural Maine. As he began to read the Bible as a young man he began to share the Gospel at each home on his bread route - often being rejected but returned and returned pleading with them to know God and be converted. It is said one home he went back to 42 times when finally the family got on their knees together and received Christ as their savior. In a message preached years ago called "Just Sow!" he explained that he loved sowing because he enjoyed the work. He had a spiritual work ethic that emanated from his passion for the Lord and His ministry. He has been a role model for many of us how to sow.

First Sow to Yourself God's Love Seeds
Sowing first begins with us sowing to ourselves in righteousness - Hosea 10.12. Christ's passion for the lost is the compelling momentum in our sowing beside all types of waters and sending out the feet of the laborer and the burden bearers - Isaiah 32:20. When we lose the fellowship of Christ's love toward us we lose our compassion for the lost and our mission becomes burdensome and tiring ending in quitting. God's thoughts towards us fills up our soil with his compassion leading to passion for the lost. When we struggle in the sowing of the seed with little results and much rejection we must not compensate with more scheduling or programs but first sow in the soil of their hearts God's love seeds. Many have quit moments before the harvest was to come. This law is a law that depends on the purposes passion in our hearts. If our passion is purposed it will cause us relatively to sow. The key here is to guard our passion and keep ourselves in the love of God.

The Law of Sowing & Reaping
There is a law we discover in 2 Cor 9.6-8 that is called the law of sowing and reaping. This law is a constant as the law of gravity is a constant. If you drop an object it will ALWAYS drop downward never upward. The same goes with sowing. If we sow rarely, sparingly, or hesitate, the law or sowing and reaping comes into affect - we reap sparingly, rarely, and hesitantly. The question is not IF we will reap but IF we will quit. If we don't quit and receive grace's sufficiency of love then we will reap. Have fun in sowing - have fun with your team because sowing is always a part of our lives and not something we do strictly for reaping. If we only sow only that we would reap then we stop sowing when results do come. We are" lifers" in sowing because his compassions fail not - Lam 3.22. Don't quit, or wimp out. Press forward building yourself up - "seeing we have this ministry (of mercy towards us) we faint not - 2 Cor 4.1.

The Inherent Power in The Seed
When we think our sowing of the "good seed" is in vain and we need to depend on programs, secular insight, & presentation; then we are depending on something other than the inherent power of The Seed. The power of the message in sowing is not the program or even the presentation but rather the power that lies inherently in The Seed we sow itself! There is the spiritual DNA of God in the Seed of the Gospel of Grace. The Seed does not need to be modified, manipulated or enhanced, any tampering with The Seed will actually hurt it. When The Seed is faithfully sown it goes into the ground for a period of time - a time of death and incubation. When the conditions are right The Seed will sprout and we may not even remember sowing it. Eccl 11:4-6 describes the secret hidden process of the growth of The Seed so the charge by Solomon is to sow in the morning when you want to sleep in and sow in the evening when you want to kick back and relax. Our job is just to sow - not grow the Seed.

So when we as the faithful sower go forth to sow weeping we WILL return rejoicing with our sheaves with us! This is because when The Seed is sown in the right field it will grow and bear fruit. Be encouraged fellow laborer!

- Christian Moore -