“Go out to all the world and tell the good news.”
What if Christian evangelism is ultimately an agricultural enterprise?
Suppose this one facet of Christianity is intended and conceived as a farming project?
I try to imagine that the gospel is the single seed being sown by Jesus, the owner of a very large farm. How would this farming project logically begin, and how would it increase?
Initially, I think it would be necessary for the owner of the farm to equip his laborers with the seed, (the gospel) and send them out to nearby fields to begin sowing. After a certain period of time the harvest would come, and hopefully the owner would show a small profit.
Next year, using his profit, the owner would likely send out additional laborers to plant new fields, with the same result, thereby expanding year by year.
Fast forward, 2000 years. This farm has been a colossal success and now covers 30% of the earth’s surface. It is organized and robust, and it supports a massive and thriving farming community. Obviously, the owner is quite pleased with his progress.
Seeing his success, and being forward thinking, the owner is understandably eager to plant and develop the remaining 70% of his land. But due to the economies of scale he sees that it is no longer feasible to send out individual laborers, with small packages of seed, to increasingly far-flung lands. That model will have to give way to new mechanized farming techniques. He knows the same exact seed needs to be planted, but what new tools does he have at his disposal?
In our day and age, for the first time in human history, individual gospels can be mass-produced by a process known as print-on-demand. Quality copies of individual gospels (each approximately 60 pages long) can be mass-produced for mere pennies.
And, for the first time in human history, these gospels can be distributed rapidly and intelligently by another new process known as direct mail. Direct mail is often used by advertisers to put a physical copy of their brochure into the hands of prospective customers. It is inexpensive, and studies have shown it to be almost 10 times as effective as digital marketing.
These new processes are increasingly available within vast areas of currently un-planted territory across the globe.
Just for example, here is an article distributed by the India Department of Posts several years ago:
Tuesday, July 19th, 2005
With competition catching up fast, India Post is changing with the times! Coming on top of several new initiatives to provide value additions to its customers, the Department of Posts on Monday launched “Direct Post”. The “Direct Post” service enables a customer to distribute publicity material for marketing a product to a large number of households in a particular area through the post office. “For its sheer size and reach, this is a better way to market a product with six lakh workforce spread over 155,000 post offices. Besides, subscribers may not read publicity material distributed along with newspapers. But when it is delivered by a postman, chances are that people will pay a lot more attention,” says the official.
The India Post belongs to an organization called the Asian Pacific Postal Union, comprised of 32 member countries throughout the continents of Asia and Australia. Furthermore, the Asian Pacific Postal Union is a sister organization, and is closely related to, the Pan African Postal Union, which is made up of 44 member countries in Africa. Together, these two postal unions are focused entirely on quality of service, and they consider the post to be a positive catalyst for socio-economic development. The Post Office Departments of their member nations are all, more or less, patterned on the same model.
The countries that they serve and represent are the very countries we are trying to reach with the gospel, those very people who have never been approached, ever, with the message of Jesus. Statistically, the average age of these people is 26 years old.
I live in the United States. The U.S. Postal Service has a direct mail program known as EDDM, or Every Door Direct Mail. I have been experimenting with EDDM for the past several years as an efficient and economical way to spread the gospel to a widely diverse population within the state of New Jersey. I have no way to measure the effectiveness of this process, but I am hopeful that at least some of the recipients will be curious enough to pick up the gospel and give it a read.
Returning to my farm metaphor, laborers, i.e. dependable and hard working postal employees, can begin sowing seeds immediately without the customary long years of training required in the past. No training in ministry, no theology, no psychology, no ordination, no investiture of any kind.
Postal workers, by the very nature of their job, are responsible, accountable, judicious, and trustworthy. They have been trained to deliver the mail without judging its content or interfering with its purpose. They are amply paid and they depend on their jobs for their livelihood. They are the perfect people to carry out Christ’s wishes: “Go out to all the world and tell the good news.”
Don’t worry. Those highly trained men and women currently on staff within the vast farming community will have their hands full when the next harvest comes in. The seed is just as potent as ever, and promises an abundant harvest, as always.
All that remains is a little cooperation among willing individuals and a positive outlook for the future of the world.
My next post, Mixing Metaphors , develops the farming metaphor a little more.