We resume our study in Matthew 13 of the parable of the sower. We are learning that if he expects to reap a harvest the sower needs to prepare both himself and the soil. We’ve determined that there are two ploughs needed for breaking up hard ground; prayer and love.

What’s involved in ploughing a hard heart? Time. To plough up a hard field, it takes time. To plough up a hard heart takes time too.  In the book, Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Master a language? 10,000 hours.  Master a job? 10,000 hours. Master a relationship? 10,000 hours. Gladwell’s research proves that time is an essential ingredient in the success of any venture. Ten thousand hours invested in any skill will make you an expert. Paul relates to this in 1 Corinthians 3, when he refers to himself as a “master” or wise builder.  He’s invested the time to impact lives.

About 5 years ago, a mission organization working in Muslim areas did a survey to learn how many hours a week their members were spending with Muslims.  The survey concluded on average that their field workers or “missionaries” averaged 3 to 5 hours/week with Muslims.  And that’s probably divided between 3 to 5 Muslim friends. If we do the math, that breaks down to roughly 250 hours a year with Muslims. Divide that among 3 friends and you are now spending less than 100 hours a year with each person.

Now if you are seeing your Muslim friend twice a week or 5 hours a week, that means over 48 weeks, (allowing for 4 weeks for vacation) you’re going need over 41 years before you will get 10,000 hours.  Now certainly God can break through and work a miracle in any person’s life and heart at any time. But personally, in the 33 years I’ve lived overseas, I’ve only witnessed a couple of such miracles leading to a Muslim turning his/her life over to Jesus. As a strategy, such miracles are not readily reproducible, nor in my case, did they result in more than a couple of families coming to Christ.

So, the question is, how can we get large blocks of time with those we are trying to reach so that they may both see and hear the Gospel in and through our lives?

The solution is one word: work.

As we discussed last month, work and worship are synonymous in the mind of God. If we are working with local people, 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, 48 weeks a year, for 10,000 hours — that’s roughly 6 years 10 months of ploughing. That means it should take about 7 years before we see a break through.

So how in the world do we get 10,000 hours with any Muslim?  How do we find the amount of time with people that is needed for such ploughing?  I hope the solution is obvious. We work with them. We get jobs and work alongside the people we are called to reach, or we start businesses and we create jobs for the people enabling us to both model and speak the truth of the Good News to them. This is ploughing. This is sowing into people’s lives. This is becoming a Paul-like master builder, and it includes making tents with the people.

This is business for transformation.



PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.

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