Thursday, June 09, 2011

You can’t harvest the field while sitting in the barn

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few mostly not qualified to work the fields. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers professional harvesters into his harvest but the rest of you should stay in the barn and listen to someone else talk about harvesting. (Luke 10:2 remix)

It is June and in Indiana that means farming is in full swing. When I drive home from work I will pass lots of tractors out pulling planters and fields with Amish families baling hay. The quiet brown fields of winter are alive with farmers working and crops coming up. I pass dozens of fields with mares and their young colts running around clumsily on their spindly legs. Life goes from quiet and passive to busy in a big hurry!

Over and over we see agricultural metaphors in the New Testament. Wheat fields, vineyards, olive trees. This is due in large part to the generally agrarian nature of those times but God in His perfect wisdom also knew that the Bible would be read by people in a post-industrial world where most people haven’t a clue where their food comes from. So sometimes we need to think about agriculture as it applies to the Gospel and more specifically the mission of the church. How do these agricultural metaphors speak to us in a post-agrarian society?

I don’t know everything there is to know about farming (as proof see the post regarding my mishap in the mud). I do know this much, you can’t harvest the field if you never leave the barn. For our purposes here I would liken, in modern language, the barn to the church. Not just a church building but the gathered church. The gathering of the church is so crucial and it is important that we think Biblically about the church but the church is the result of the mission of God to redeem a people to Himself. Gathering as the church is not the end game, it is where we go for edification and equipping believers for the work of ministry which includes mission work and evangelism. Just as you can’t harvest the field if you never leave the barn, you can be truly engaged in the Great Commission if you never “go”.

Now that doesn’t mean you never go in the barn. There is prepping that needs to go on even with (especially with?) modern farm machinery. Failing to properly prepare for planting and harvesting means machines that break down in the field and time wasted fixing machines while the favorable weather flees and the sunlight fades. When my father-in-law was farming full-time, I often found myself running to the tractor dealer to buy a belt or some other doodad that had broken down. Clearly the barn has its place and likewise the gathered church has its place but neither of them are the ultimate goal.

We absolutely must gather with the church because that is what God commanded and intended for His people. He must also keep in mind that God is not calling His people to hang around with each other once a week, He has called His people to be ambassadors for His Son to a lost world and that means we need to get out in the field. The harvest is plentiful indeed but it won’t gather itself.


Misplaced Honor said...


my wife and I have caught a lot of flack recently for saying the same thing you're saying here, and this from members of a simple church gathering. Apparently some folks think it is destructive and accusitory to say that there aren't enough laborers in the field. Especially when someone tries to round those laborers up to work together.

thank you for what you've said here. You encourage me to press on.

Arthur Sido said...

Bobby, it is troubling but not surprising that people take offense at this. Press on brother, the time is short and the work is great indeed.