Reimagining the Harvest

Most people who have sat in an Evangelical church for any amount of time have heard many rousing sermons about “The Harvest”.  Most Christians have heard the call for workers for the harvest.  A large amount of us have heard reports of a “wonderful harvest” from Evangelical plays where “prayer cards” were filled out with people stating they wished for salvation.

But is that the harvest?

We’ve heard stories of Evangelists flying on airplanes and bringing someone “to Christ” before the plane touched back down.

But is that the harvest?

We’ve heard the stories of stadiums full of people crying out in prayer during concerts or revival services.

But is that the harvest?

We’ve heard the stories of short-term missionaries feeding hundreds of hungry in the streets of Mexico, or handing out garbage bags full of clothing.  We’ve heard these missionaries again talking about the shoeboxes full of prayer cards-

But again, I ask, is this the harvest?

What about the stories of friendships that endure through years of distance, alcoholism, questioning, struggles?  The testimonies of those won over by years of friendship and tears?

We so often gravitate towards stories that inspire awe.  Towards numbers we can count.  The hundreds and thousands we can reach in a manner of hours.  We really love those shoeboxes full of prayer cards and the feeling of having “made a difference” we get from hearing about hundreds fed and clothed in one week’s time.  We love these stories- but I have to ask this question.  I have to:

Are these actually stories of changed lives?

Let’s be honest.  Many of these stories are like gleaning the fields just to leave the harvest in the rain.  We make these points of contact and then drift away again.  While one or two of the twenty prayer cards may yeild up a relationship that grows into another church member, the rest are left out in the world to question and doubt and possibly eventually lose any hope they had gained.  Like stars passing in the night, we witness (or witness to) these people without truly coming into contact with them.

We need to rethink the harvest.  When Jesus was speaking to the disciples and telling them that the harvest was ripe, isn’t rational to think that part of that ripe harvest was as a result of Jesus’ own work?  It’s not like Jesus was saying, “hey, the Holy Spirit will do all the work and you guys just reap the reward.”  We need to reimagine the way we think about the harvest.

Farmers have to plow the field, sow the seed, tend to it, watch for weeds, guard against infestation, and after months and months of rain and sun they finally are able to bring in the harvest.

But- even then they go through the process of sorting the harvest, preparing it to be shipped and processed and eventually consumed.  Let’s think about this process as it compares to a spiritual harvest.  We have to create an environment to sow in.  Perhaps that has to do with Sunday mornings, but it probably doesn’t.  After that, we have to gather the seeds.  Then we plant them, water them, wait for them to put on roots and start to grow.  It may be days or months or longer before there is any fruit to judge- but in human terms that could be years of time.  Then there is the time to bring in the harvest, but even THEN there is a long process of preparing the harvest to be consumed (think in terms of service within the church) or resown (as in a person become apostolic).

Challenge yourself.  Think about what this means about our perception of our churches.  What are they there for?  Are they here solely as a fellowship for the believers?  And if that truly is the case, where are the fields for sowing seed?

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