We are studying in Matthew 13, 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.
Does plowing (prayer and love) work? Do 10,000 hours really make a difference? Allow me to demonstrate.
At the OPEN Connect (a meeting for B4Ters held every other year), held this past August, I asked the 190+ OPEN workers, “How many of you who have been working for 1-3 years, at least 20 hours a week in a hard land? Not more than 3 years, but not less than 1 year? Please Stand up.” Roughly 50-60 people stood.
I continued, “Now if you have already had a co-worker say something like,
‘Working here is better than any other place I’ve worked,’ or
‘I really enjoy working with you.’ Sit down.” Nearly everyone (95%) sat down.
The first 3 years of plowing is hard. And you cannot expect fruit when plowing. Having co-workers or employees say these things shows the B4Ters have cracked the surface. But their co-workers or employees are not yet ready for the seed. If we plant the seed at this point, I’ll bet you they wind up as seed sown on the stony or thorny ground. When co-workers or employees may these statements, it shows that the B4Ter is doing well, moving in the right direction. People are watching. So keep plowing. BUT DO NOT SOW!
Once the surface is cracked, then up come the stones – the person’s character, the person’s self-image. I don’t know where you work, but some of my employees think nothing about taking home staplers, books, pens, money left on a counter, whatever. “Pay a bribe,” they say, “Why do all that government paperwork?”
We need to teach them integrity, honesty, excellence—and who is the best teacher? Our words or our actions? Do it. Show them. Model it. Don’t just talk to them. And as people grow in their personal integrity, you will see it in their work. They may not comment, but you will observe it because as human beings become more righteous, their own self-esteem begins to improve too. Their lives begin to be healed. Expect this to occur after you have worked with them somewhere between 2 to 5 years.
Next up are the weeds and thorns. This is the tougher one, because of two things. For one, there’s lots of temptations in this world and each person has different weak points. And two, there’s a lot of pressure from the family, the culture, and history.
By now you’ve been working together for 3 to 7 years. It’s at this stage your co-worker begins to ask you about your faith. Even without your mentioning Jesus directly to them for all those years, they will ask. They probably will ask for a copy of the Bible too. How can I be so certain?
Again, I asked the OPEN workers at the OPEN Connect, “If you’ve been working 20+ hours/week, in the same business with the roughly the same people for 7 or more years, please stand up.” Exactly 20 people stood. That reflects how young our movement it. I continued, “Now, if you or your team working with you, have seen one or more persons come to faith, who are baptized, who are sticking with the faith—sit down.” Precisely 18 of the 20 B4Ters sat down. That means 90% are seeing fruit—fruit that lasts.
In time, in specifically 10,000 hours, the soil is softened, the rocks are removed, the weeds are plowed under, and suddenly the soil is ready for the seed.
What’s encouraging for me is that for the past 8 years I’ve been publicly telling people that it seems business after business when it hits the 7-8 year mark is seeing a breakthrough in people coming to faith. And in case you’ve not yet done the math, if we are working with people 48 weeks a year, 30 hours a week, that’s 6 years 10 months – roughly 7 years.
Doing business puts each B4T worker out in the harvest where s/he is constantly, yet naturally required by their life and actions to plow, cultivate, fertilize, water and sow. Yes, in time, 7 years to be precise, a harvest will be reaped.
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.