“There is no labor which seems at first more barren of results than that of the sower. After many days of toil, the field on which the labor has been lavished exhibits less verdure than at first, and, in a time of drought, may long remain without one single springing blade to give hopeful promise of the future. It is equally so in the moral and religious world. He who endeavors to plant the seeds of truth in human hearts must await with patience their development, and must not fail or be discouraged if the precious germs he has scattered should, under unfavorable conditions, long remain undeveloped and concealed. The spring-time will surely come at last; the living truth will assert its power, and, in its heavenward growth, furnish the cheering prospect of the harvest. Such patience of hope has been required, in no small degree, of all who have undertaken the reformation of mankind, and who have broken up the fallow ground of pernicious error in order to the production of blessed fruits.” -- Robert Richardson, Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, vol. 1, p. 484.
Richardson wrote these words about the early days of the American Restoration Movement. The progress was slow and the work required great patience. Just as the early settlers worked hard for years clearing trees by hand to build roads and houses and plowing new ground to grow crops, Restoration preachers cut through dense forests of human traditions and plowed untilled hearts to sow the seed of the Word of God. They made few converts in those years. Established churches shunned them and friends and family members turned against them, but they persevered and their labors eventually produced great results.
In the parable of the sower Jesus said the seed is the Word of God that is planted in the hearts of men (Luke 8:11-15). Some pay no attention to it. Some gladly obey it at first but then quit when it causes them to be persecuted. Others obey the Word but worldliness overtakes them, and then those with an honest and good heart keep the Word of God and bring forth fruit with patience. Jesus never said that all or even most people will accept the gospel and remain true to it.
I hear more and more preachers and elders say converting people is hard these days. We need patience. We must not give in to pressure to water down the gospel to please people. Our job is not to fill church buildings at any cost. It is to fill men’s hearts with the Word of God and leave the results up to them and God. We need to go back to Paul’s famous words: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6).