Means of communication are becoming immensely more numerous and efficient, travel is easier and cheaper than decades ago, so that the knowledge we have of regions in and out of the country has also grown considerably. So it is easier today than it was in old times to verify with the assistance of statistics where Evangelical testimony exists and is more intense, and where it does not exist or is very feeble.
It is the desire of every believer that testimony of the Gospel should exist and be strong all over the globe. How we wish it were so! Nearly two millennia after the beginning of the church of Christ, we verify that there are few places where we may consider that its witness is strong, no matter the criterion adopted to evaluate it.
But this is not surprising, for the Lord Jesus himself told us " … narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:14), "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:24).
He taught us through the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:19-23) and its explanation, that the preaching of the word does not always attain the desired effect:
It may not be understood (because there is no desire to comprehend it), and then the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in the heart of the listener;
It may be received with joy, but only superficially and for a short time, then it succumbs with the trials and tribulations. It is what happens with many "conversions" forced by an emotive atmosphere and long appeals;
It is heard but is not effective, because priority is given to the cares of this world and the lust for riches.
The Gospel can only redeem and transform souls in "good soil", when the word is heard and voluntarily comprehended, which is not simply to be "understood", but to be entirely absorbed and put into practice with sincerity (Luke 8:15).
The sower in this parable is he who preaches the word of the Kingdom (Matthew 13:19), the Lord Jesus, as in another parable which follows (Matthew 13:37). By analogy, those who preach the Gospel are also sowers.
The reality taught here became very evident in the ministry of the Lord Jesus to the people of Israel: in spite of the quality of His teaching, which astonished the people because "He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matthew 7:28,29), and of the convincing signs he performed, there were few on His side at the end, and He was rejected by the nation.
The Lord said to His disciples and these were His last words when He ascended into heaven: "… you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8 - NKJV).
In fact, after the baptism of the Holy Spirit of the little church in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, after the ascension of Jesus Christ, the disciples preached the Gospel with great courage confronting the opposition of the religious leaders, and there were thousands of conversions. The sowing seemed finally to be giving positive results, reaching good soil. Many had come from other places and other countries, and took the message with them in their own languages, so being able to spread the good news, increasing the seedbed.
We do not know for sure how far the Gospel was spread at the time of the first disciples. Would they really have gone to the end of the earth? There are ancient traditions, without historic confirmation, that they would have gone as far as North Europe, and even to India and China. It is more probable that the Lord's expression "to the end of the earth" means that there are no people on earth that should not be reached by Christian witness.
This witness is not obviously limited to a team, for example, the eleven apostles and the other disciples present on that occasion. They could witness to what they personally experienced of Christ, and even today we have the witness of some of them written on the four Gospels, translated into nearly all languages on the globe, and distributed to nearly all people in spite of the great opposition found, brought on by the devil.
Those first pioneers have already gone to the presence of God nineteen centuries ago and it is still necessary today for the Word to be sown, as Paul wrote in Romans 10:12-17: "… the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For 'whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.' How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!' But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed our report?' So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (NKJV).
The preacher, the evangelist, who announces the Gospel, is sent. To be sent, it is necessary that he be first chosen and then called for this service. Nobody can choose, call and send himself. Who chooses, calls and sends is the Lord Jesus (John 15:16, 1 Corinthians 1:26, Acts 1:8).
Every believer must be a witness of the Gospel. Personal testimony is an integral part of Christian life. Our main mission now, as when the Lord sent his eleven disciples saying "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature...." (Mark 16:15), is to sow the Word of God: and this is the work of every believer! Let us be careful, in our prayers, not to ask God to send others to do the work which we ourselves ought to be doing.
We can perfectly well fulfil our task of sowing without seeing one soul being converted, as Isaiah admitted. Have we failed? No. The sower of the parable cast his seed everywhere - he didn't choose where it fell! Also we cannot foresee if the Word that we spread will be well or badly understood, as Isaiah acknowledged, and if it will result in acceptance and conversion.
The apostle Paul had the experience of having planted whilst another, Apollos, had the privilege of watering. One as much as the other were servants as the Lord conceded to each one, but the God gave the increase. It is not important to know who is planting, or who is watering, but if God is using them, we must praise God for the result of their work.
Each of us does not go to the ends of the earth to give our witness - but we can provide for the sustenance of those who go, or for a radio programme that broadcasts the message of the Gospel, or even the printing and distribution of the Bible done by associations of brethren in the faith.
We must admit that God uses many servants. They may be doing their work in slightly different manners, but this is no reason for us to go to the attack against those who do it differently from us. There are different methods, but if God is using them, they are workers together with us in the work of God.
God wants all to be saved, and His Spirit directs the workers in sowing. It is not for us to direct the workers, like many like to think - we are not competent to stimulate or to "send" workers to this region or that, to this country or that. God knows better. Statistics are superficial and the Holy Spirit doesn't need them to place the servants of God where it is most convenient. "Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness" (2 Corinthians 9:10).