My wife and I noticed yesterday the first blush of brown amongst the green soybean fields in our area. Even as the summer heat lingers, the crops are hinting that harvest is on the way. Farmers are aware of the “harvest envelope,” the limited time between the final ripening moments and the days when the crop yield begins to decline for lack of timely reaping. A wise farmer knows the reward of a season of hard work can be diminished by allowing grain to stand too long in the field.
We Jesus followers should also take careful heed of His harvest teachings so that we might not be caught idle when we should be actively engaged in the work of ingathering. Given the Proverbs 10:5 warning that “…he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son,” we would be wise to remind ourselves that our Savior, the Lord of the harvest, gives clear instructions to be ready and active in his harvest work.
WE MUST SHARE HIS SENSE OF URGENCY. “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (Jesus, John 4:35). Far too many church groups seem more concerned about holding on to their present attendees and shielding themselves from the world than they are about advancing God’s heart for the growing harvest around us. We have not been called to simply “hang on, hold out, and hope for the best” until Jesus returns. We are commissioned to “go and make disciples,” and that potential harvest is all around us in the form of ever-growing numbers of persons who do not have a life-giving relationship with God through Jesus.
Jesus calls us to “open our eyes” and see those people as he sees them—broken people in desperate need of hope. As carriers of the antidote to their certain spiritual death and as ambassadors of the Lord of the harvest (2 Corinthians 5:20), we must ask God to stir in us a fresh sense of urgency that breaks our hearts for lost wanderers and motivates us to engage them with Jesus’ love.
WE MUST ENGAGE THE HARVEST “IN THE FIELD,” NOT “IN THE BARN.” “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Jesus, Matthew 9:37-38). Any farmer knows that the harvest is not gathered by swinging the storage bin doors open, firing up the combine, and letting it idle in the barn doorway, then shouting to the grainfields, “All is ready—corn and beans, come on in!” To bring in the harvest, you have to go where the grain is first—the grain can’t get into the warm, dry barn by itself.
Unfortunately, that lesson seems lost on more than a few churches. They invest much time, energy, and money on having the best “barn and farm equipment”—the best buildings, programs, worship resources, and the like—then wait and hope that somehow the “harvest” will come to them. Put directly, the harvest is NOT coming, nor do they intend to do so. With every passing year, fewer and fewer Americans express even a willingness, much less an intention, to come to our churches to take part in our programs.
If the plentiful harvest Jesus describes is to be brought in, we must allow Jesus to send us out from our churches and into the harvest field to purposefully make relational connections where the people God loves live, work, and play. In short, each of us is the “cutting edge” of the harvest, called to build relational bridges to the broken, hurting, lonely people in our communities, schools, and workplaces.
Are we willing to allow Jesus to break our hearts with His sense of urgency? Are we asking God to help us “see the fields ripe to harvest?” In response to Jesus’ request for workers, will we say, “here I am—send me?” It is harvest time—may we be responsive to the Lord of the harvest’s call.