Over the past month I have been playing a bit of pool. And usually losing (but that’s beside the point…). And it has struck me that the game of pool is a bit like evangelism. Confused? Read on!
First, for those of you who aren’t familiar with pool, it’s basically one of those sports invented by folk who aren’t very athletic, but don’t quite fall into the darts category of unfit. All you have to do is hit balls of one colour (red or yellow) into pockets around a table using a white ball which you hit with a long stick (a ‘cue’). Sounds pretty simple. Yet put that cue into my hands and suddenly it becomes a whole lot more complicated. For I have a somewhat strange talent of being able to make the really simple shots and the really difficult shots, but a total inability to master anything in-between.
The thing with pool is, no matter how good you are, not every shot you take will result in a ball going into a pocket. Sometimes a ball will need several shots before it goes in, yet sometimes a ball will go in the first time you hit it. Sometimes the ball you hit will go on and hit another ball and move it towards a pocket. And sometimes you’ll get to the end of the game and not all your balls will be in a pocket as your opponent has got all their balls in first (this happens a lot to me…)
And when we look at Mark 4 we see something similar (stick with it, it’ll all make sense shortly – hopefully!) Mark 4:1-20 is the parable of the sower, a passage you will no doubt be familiar with if you have ever been to a harvest service. To recap, farmer sows seed, it falls on different types of ground, with different effects – sometimes it doesn’t grow, sometimes it starts but dies, and sometimes it does grow. Essentially in this passage Jesus is talking about evangelism. And it’s all a bit like pool. The act of sowing the seed is equivalent to telling others about Jesus, or taking a shot in pool. And (if you are like me) often the pool ball doesn’t go into the pocket. The seed gets eaten by birds or choked by weeds. People don’t drop everything and repent.
But here’s the great thing. In pool, if you mess up a shot, after you opponent has had their go you get to try again. In the parable the farmer saw his seed get eaten by birds, choked by weeds and scorched by the sun. But he didn’t get put off. He kept sowing, and eventually got a great harvest. Spend enough time hitting a pool ball and even I can usually get it in. And likewise with evangelism we won’t succeed every time. But we need to keep trying in the hope that eventually our friends will ‘see the light’.
And just like in pool there are some people who are naturally better than others so it is with evangelism – there are some who just have a gift for it. But just like the ‘less gifted’ among us can still attempt to play pool, so those of us who are less good at evangelism still need to make an effort, for there are people that only we can reach, shots that only we can pull off.
It has been known that after all my efforts at pool for me to only get one ball into the pocket by the end of the game. But that is still one more ball than would have gone in if i had got discouraged and given up if my first shot failed.
It may be that all our efforts to let our friends now about Jesus’ love don’t produce much fruit. But remember what I said earlier about a ball nudging another towards the pocket in pool. It may be that your role is to nudge your friends towards Jesus, and then somewhere down the line someone else will come along and pot the ball, water the seed you have planted and see it start to grow into a great harvest in your friend’s life.
The important thing to do is to follow the example of the sower and just keep sowing, regardless, and keep praying that God would work wonders and let a spiritual harvest grow. (And if you’re ever playing me at pool, go easy on me!)