Pastor Maricle recently used this passage in a sermon and made some comments which I would like to expound upon. Many are the critics who claim that our methods of soul-winning (door-to-door, passing out tracts at parades, street preaching, etc) are fruitless and a waste of time. They will say that souls should be won to the Lord through relationships and lifestyle evangelism; that the modern Christian's method must be to live his every day life in such a way that people see something they want to have in their lives, and this allows him to witness to co-workers and friends. They claim this will result in a much higher rate of converts that "stick". The common argument thrown at confrontational style evangelists (us) is, "If all these people are getting saved, why aren't they in church?" I believe the answer is in the above parable. Jesus didn't tell a story about an arborist who dug a hole and planted an acorn, tended to it, watered it, and finally saw it sprout into a mighty oak. He told of a sower who scattered thousands of seeds and made sure the seed fell on every patch of ground. We see that some of the seed (the Word of God) landed on shallow soil and actually sprouted. Since new life began, we can say that the person depicted here was saved, but we see a tragic thing take place when the new sprout is scorched by the hot sun and whithers. This is not a picture of someone losing their salvation, rather it depicts the temptations of life rendering a shallow Christian spiritually ineffective. We also see some of the new sprouts get choked by thorns, or the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. Again, this Christian is saved but does nothing for Christ. His life is fruitless. Only a small amount of seed lands on good soil, takes root, and grows, but these yield much fruit.
The next time you use the excuse that confrontational soul-winning (and by that I mean approaching people you've never met to give them the gospel) isn't a good method because you don't see the fruit right away, remember the last part of the passage where Jesus said, "But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience." Patience is the key here. And keep in mind that those that choked or were scorched are still going to be so grateful to you in heaven for taking the time to share the gospel with them, because they narrowly escaped an eternal lake of fire.