The hardest place on earth is right where you are

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Everywhere I go I hear the soil is hard here. This is the toughest place in which to share the gospel.

Earlier this year I was in Germany. Making disciples is hard in Germany — especially in the former East Germany (GDR). In the East people are five times more likely to be an atheist (52%) than in the West (10%), earning East Germany the title of “the most godless place on earth.”

You might not be in East Germany, but you may be in one of the most godless cities in the US, or in the Czech Republic, Thailand, Japan or Saudi Arabia. What do we do when the soil is hard?

1. Maybe it’s not your fault

A young Chinese professional we led to Christ in Melbourne was deeply discouraged. She’d been sharing her faith at work with her Australian and European colleagues. No one was interested. I had her read Jesus’ parable of the four soils (Mark 4).

Half way through she exclaimed, “It’s not my fault!”

Jesus told this parable our of his own experience. Some people are hard soil. Some people will fall away. Keep looking for fertile soil.

Do we really think Jesus had it easier than we do? Remember what happened when he went to his home town? They tried to kill him.

We think, “If only we were more like Jesus, people would believe.” Maybe if we were more like Jesus people would throw us over a cliff.

Is it a communication problem? Maybe if we communicate better things will get worse. Paul tells us that the message of the Cross is offensive to both strict religious people (Jews) and pagans (Gentiles). It’s a miracle when anyone believes.

2. Do you know what to do on Monday morning?

When the soil is hard ask yourself if you’re doing the right things? Do you know what to do on Monday morning?

Read of Paul’s account of his mission in Ephesus (Acts 20:17-28). Notice how real it is. You can see him fulfilling his mission. He connects, proclaims the gospel, he forms new disciples into churches. He knows what to do.

The main actor is not Paul, it is God. The story of Acts is the story of the spread of the dynamic Word of God resulting in new disciples and churches. This is the fulfilment of Jesus’ mission in the Gospels.

If you don’t know what your mission is, and what to do on Monday morning, what hope you do you have of succeeding? If that describes you, get some training. If you’ve done some training, get connected with other practitioners for accountability and support.

3. Look for where God is working and leverage the exceptions

It’s not our job to change people. It’s our job to find God-prepared people (Luke 10). If you’re in a resistant field, where are the exceptions? In some fields it might be one in ten people are ready to respond to Christ, in other fields it might be one in a thousand. Find that person and help them reach the people in their world.

If there’s only one person in your city/region/nation/people group who is seeing fruit — learn from that person. If there’s no one — learn from breakthroughs in similar fields. Don’t attempt this alone.

I have a friend in Germany who is focused on reaching Germans. Recently a million Arabs and Persians suddenly arrived in his country. A door has opened and now he is discipling and planting churches among Afghans and Iranians. He goes where the fish are biting.

When this happens people say but they’re not British or German or Australian so it doesn’t really count. We want to reach our countrymen not immigrants. The apostle Peter had the same problem in Acts 10. Cornelius didn’t count until God got Peter’s attention.

4. Someone has to go first

I like what Steve Smith says,

There was a time when there were no CPMs in China: someone had to be ?rst.

There was a time when there were no CPMs in India: someone had to be ?rst.

There was a time when there were no CPMs in Southeast Asia: someone had to be ?rst.

One hundred years ago Christianity was a white man’s religion. That changed because people who did not know any better laid down their lives for the gospel. History is made by unreasonable people who take God at his Word and turn faith into obedience.