4 Ways SOWERS is Different
The Jesus of the Bible is unlike what most of the world says of him.
One little-known story shows Jesus’ disciples tattling to him about a guy casting out demons in his name. They tried to stop him because he wasn’t following them, but was off on his own.
Now, you’d think Jesus might agree with them. Shouldn’t the “in” crowd be the one that he’s in? He is God, after all. But here, Jesus gives a pretty controversial statement. In Mark 9:40, he says:
“He who is not against us is for us.”
It’s an example of what Paul later elaborates on about the body of Christ having many parts. God doesn’t use just one method to accomplish his will. He doesn’t use only one kind of person.
The SOWERS method is very different from what other international mission organizations do. And this doesn’t make one better or worse.
Here are four ways SOWERS has become a unique and effective expression of God’s desire to reach the nations:
One of Paul’s core principles in building the church is stated in Ephesians 4:3
“Be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Unity takes work. And if we don’t keep our focus on the core responsibility of the church to make disciples of all nation, the church ends up fragmenting based on less important doctrines.
Sowers is an inter-denominational ministry. We are not a Baptist missions organization. We are not a Presbyterian missions organization. Or Lutheran, or Pentecostal, or any of the numerous others, including those churches with no official denomination.
As long as they are Bible-based, we work with and support any and all denominations. And this is because the mission of the church is to preach the gospel, seek and save the lost, and make disciples. It’s not that the various differences don’t matter. But they shouldn’t prevent us from working together – preserving the unity of the Spirit – to follow Jesus’ commands.
Inside-Out Change through the Local Church
Lots of missionary organizations and churches throughout history have sent out people to other nations. And we stand in unity with those brave witnesses of Christ. Many of them are heroes of history.
But we’ve found, especially when it comes to cross-cultural ministry, that working with already existing churches in the local area is far more effective. This is especially true if we want to reach large numbers of people and transform whole communities.
In Acts 17, when Paul entered Athens, he seized on a locally understood element of their culture – an altar for an “unknown God” – and used that to introduce them to the gospel. Paul understood that it wouldn’t make sense to start quoting Jewish law to a bunch of Greeks.
As an outsider, he had to understand their culture before he could witness to them.
So, though it’s difficult for an outsider to enter a culture they don’t know, it’s certainly not impossible with the Holy Spirit. But there is a high learning curve. You have to learn and understand:
- Language – well enough to communicate biblical truth accurately
- Customs – common points of understanding, traditional ways of thinking
- Culture – the essence of who they are that sets them apart from others
- Belief Systems – polytheistic, animist – mostly unknown to Westerners
- Geography – including social and ethnic groups
- History – what these people have been through and how it has affected them
- Perceptions – how they will perceive you as an outsider
Then there is the food, the living standards, the climate and the inefficiencies inherent in a developing country that all take time to adjust to.
An outside missionary also has to raise outside financial support. This is far more costly than for a local missionary, and not just because of the travel requirements, though that’s a big part of it.
In contrast, by working with existing churches and training their members to use the SOWERS method of evangelism, we avoid almost all those learning barriers. A local evangelist has more immediate rapport and credibility with the people they interact with. And, since they live locally, they have far fewer expenses.
When you support a local Sower for even a small amount of money, the impact you have – in terms of numbers of people hearing and responding to the gospel – is thousands of times greater than you’d have supporting an outside missionary.
Constantly Train New Evangelists
We don’t believe in the ‘rock star’ method of church-building. When a movement is highly dependent on one or two incredibly dynamic or charismatic leaders, then when that person moves on (or falls into trouble), the whole ministry can collapse.
You’ve seen this happen.
2 Timothy 2:2 says:
“The things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also.”
In one verse you see the discipleship-thinking of Paul: Four spiritual ‘generations.’ Paul taught Timothy, who was teaching others, and those people could then teach others.
With our 5-Level Training Program, SOWERS continually raises up new leaders and evangelists. Within months of repenting and turning to Jesus, a new believer can be trained in Levels 1 and 2 and be sent out as part of a team for the next outreach.
With each new experience, a new believer deepens their own faith as they share it with others who’ve heard the message for the first time. That’s how the church grows.
And as new churches get planted, new pastors are given the opportunity to lead. It continually expands and reproduces, and it does so without the need for central leadership. Though we have a Governance Board in SOWERS, the individual churches we help plant are not required to do things a certain way, or even to be “members” of SOWERS.
Fund Meetings – Investing in the Gospel
When local churches in nations like Zimbabwe, Ghana, and Nepal want to hold new outreaches, the costs are very low by Western standards. But there are costs.
SOWERS helps fund these missionary outreaches when the local churches cannot. We help them pay for the booklets, the provisions for the staff, if any are needed, the sketch boards, and other necessary materials. It doesn’t cost much, but it’s more than some people in these areas can afford to do on their own.
However, while we support any local church that asks us to help them reach their nearby communities with the gospel, we continually encourage them to build up their own support and fund their outreaches.
In II Cor 8, Paul describes how the Macedonian church gave “beyond their ability…for the favor of participation in the support of the saints.” Even in poverty, they saw the eternal value of the work Paul was doing, and gave in faith to support him.
In the same way, the local churches we work with do have resources, even if they are often very limited, and we encourage them to trust God and sow into his kingdom. When they need help, we come alongside them.
You can do so by supporting an individual Sower, a Project, or the General Fund.