Identify Prospects


          No one likes to waste time. The sad fact of the matter is this: most people will reject the truth. Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Despite this fact, we still bear the responsibility of taking the gospel to those around us.
          Our duty is to obey God without regard to how people respond. You never know how a kind word or deed will impact a person, and in fact, you may never see that impact. Paul and Apollos worked together in spreading the gospel; Paul said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6).
          “Perhaps many of you have heard the story of the gospel preacher who a number of years ago held a meeting in a country school. He thought the meeting was a failure because during the meeting only one little freckled faced girl obeyed the gospel. This little girl grew up and married and reared five boys and all of them because gospel preachers—the Dunn brothers—who have led many people to the Lord through their faithful preaching of the Word of God” (Otis Gatewood, You Can Do Personal Work, p. 177)
          We must scatter the seed. Jesus tells the parable of the sower in Luke 8:5-15. The sower was not concerned with the quality of the soil; the Scriptures simply state that he “went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside…Some fell on rock…And some fell among thorns…But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” What’s the lesson? Wherever you are, whoever you’re with, spread the seed.
          We can then start to identify prospects by seeing how others react to the Word. Jesus identifies four types of soil in this parable.
          First, “the wayside.” The seed there “was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it” (Luke 8:5). He later explains that the wayside represents people “who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved” (8:12). These are the non-believers. Remember that the seed must be sown before we write anyone off. What is the first step in the plan of salvation? Hear! Without first hearing the message, there is no possibility for belief (Romans 10:17). Once they have heard it, if they reject it, then they are in “the wayside.”
          Next, the “rock.” The seed, “as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture” (Luke 8:6). There are going to be people who will gladly listen to what you have to say, but they don’t allow roots to develop, “and in time of temptation fall away” (8:13). Mark’s parallel account sheds more light on the “temptation” under consideration. Mark quotes the Master Teacher as saying, “Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble” (Mark 4:17). Some may expect the Christian life to be easy, but one must make painful sacrifices and face trials in this life (Matthew 16:24-26; 2 Timothy 3:12). Despite the pain we may experience in this life, there is joy that rests in the hope of everlasting life (Mark 10:29-30).
          Third in the parable, the “thorns” which “sprang up with (the seed) and choked it” (Luke 8:7). Jesus says, “Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity” (8:14). Does the evangelist bear any responsibility in this? Possibly. Consider in the Great Commission recorded by Matthew, Jesus said to “make disciples…baptizing them…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). We need to make disciples and baptize, but keep on teaching after they put on Christ! Some will find the draw of the world too strong, and their desires for the temporary pleasures of sin will outweigh their desire for God. This is possibly what happened to Demas, who forsook Paul because he “loved this present world” (2 Timothy 4:10). The distractions of this world are many, and we must be on guard against materialism (1 Timothy 6:6-10). Still, the church must make an effort to keep the saved saved.
          Finally, the “good ground,” in which the seed “sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold” (Luke 8:8). “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience” (8:15). They will hear, believe, confess, repent, be baptized, and be faithful. Can we predict who these individuals will be among our friends? Sometimes, maybe. However, we must be cautious that we do not pre-judge and present the gospel to only those who we think are “good ground.” Until that seed is sown, we do not know how someone will respond! Sow as you go, wherever you go!

Discussion and Action

1. Have you noticed any of these attitudes in your friends when you talk about spiritual things? What are some of the negative reactions you have had to the gospel? What are some of the positive?

2. Identify types of “times of temptation” or persecutions that can cause a person to fall away.

3. What about the “cares, riches, and pleasures of life” that choke out the truth?

4. Recite the six steps of the gospel plan of salvation and where you can find Scriptures for each step.

5. Memorize the text of another verse in the gospel plan of salvation.

6. You should have five names on your index card. Have you talked to them about the gospel? Are you still praying for them? Don’t ever give up!

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