I remember one time beginning preaching open-air by shouting out, “There are two things that will happen to everyone. Number one, you are going to be pooped on by a bird. Number two, you are going to die.” I don’t know how effective it was in drawing people to hear the gospel, but it always made me snicker. (Seriously, who doesn’t enjoy yelling the word “poop” in public?)
While I don’t condone using birds or their digestive systems as a form of entertainment, probably the funniest video I ever saw involved bird poop. Picture it, a group of teenagers are gathered at the beach pouring bags of potato chips onto a tray. One teen looks at the camera, smiles, holds up a package, and almost sings, “Laxatives.” They cover the chips liberally with the magic sprinkles. Hardly able to contain their excited giggling, the teens carry the tray to a populated area of the beach, set it down, and then ran for cover. Within seconds, seagulls descend upon the glorious treasure, gorging themselves on delicacies normally jealously guarded from them… And then the white rain begins to fall… It’s hilarious. Completely disrespectful and rude and should never ever be repeated but outrageously funny. (You can watch it here if you want a good laugh.)
So, bird poop.
Jesus tells a story about bird poop in Matthew 13:3-9. Okay, so really it’s a story about seeds and soils, but there are birds in the story, and every bird poops. Anyhow, he tells how a man is scattering seeds all over the place; some of them land on amazing soil and bring a harvest, others fall on rocky or thorny soil and don’t really grow so well, and the last of it lands on the path. The path is the worst place because the seeds don’t even start growing at all; the birds come along and eat them all.
“Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.” (Matthew 13:3-4)
Jesus explains the story in Matthew 13:18-23. The seeds are God’s words, and the soils are different ways His words can be received. There are those who receive it gladly, and it gets in their hearts and grows, leading to all sorts of great results (the fruit). Others hear it and are changed a bit, but things get in the way. Then there’s the one who responds to God’s words like a teenager responding to his parents… it goes in one ear and out the other.
“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.” (Matthew 13:19)
So, the seed is thrown out there. Some lands on a path. Along come the birds and eat all the seeds. End of story. No! Because every bird poops!
In fact, there are certain seeds that will rarely (if ever) germinate unless they are first eaten, passed through the digestive system where the protective coating can be weakened, and then… uh… released. Raspberry and blackberry seeds are like this, as well as the seeds from Dogwood and Eastern Red Cedar trees. (See NY Times and USDA Forest Service)
We saw a great example of this a few weeks ago when sharing the gospel. Daniel and I spoke with two young men. While they admitted to sensing some conviction when we walked them through a few of God’s standards, both ultimately shrugged their shoulders and told us, “Well, I don’t really believe in any of that anyhow. I’m sure I’ll be fine.” Before leaving, though, they asked for a New Testament, so we left one for each.
We talked to a few more groups of people, and then I approached a man sitting alone on a park bench. As I got nearer, I noticed he was reading something very intently… a Bible! In fact, it was a very familiar-looking New Testament.
As we talked, I learned the man (Florin) was on a desperate search for God. He had not yet come to a sense of his salvation, but he was really hungry. He was thrilled when he had found a Bible left on a park bench… The bench he indicated was exactly where those two young men had been sitting.
The seed had been sown in their hearts, but the birds had come and eaten it. But every bird poops!
While the word didn’t take root in those young men’s hearts, it did find its way to Florin, who was hungry and ready to receive, overjoyed in fact to have his own Bible.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)
In the work of evangelism, we of course always want to see results. We want to see people pray with us for salvation, convert, find Jesus, get added to the church. But our faith is not based on what results we see or do not see. Our faith is based on the power of God to protect His word and to make the seed grow… even if a bird comes along and eats it.