What if we're not harvesting the right field?
Dan Pyke is a friend of mine. He's got a heart and life that overflows with Jesus, I wanted you to meet him. Dan, like so many of us, is wrestling with what it actually means to be the Church today and how we help each other live on mission with God, not just on Sunday's, but all the time. How do we actually join God in what He's doing in our neighbourhoods? Dan is a husband to Lachelle, and Dad to Rhailyn, Kendrick and Della. He's the Pastor of Youth and Children at Douglas Baptist Church in New Brunswick. Dan's posting this same blog on his blogspot today: http://danpyke.blogspot.ca/ Dan has an important question and challenge for us today. What if we're not harvesting the right field? Here's Dan:
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” [Matthew 9:37-38]
This verse is a significant reference point for frustrated pastors and leaders looking for additional volunteers. We’re buoyed by statistics that tell us that an individual is most likely to “make a decision” for Christ before the age of 13. Armed with that statistic and this verse, we’re convinced that the Church is being disobedient in their failure to volunteer and lead our youngest generations.
But what if we’re not harvesting the right field?
My farming knowledge is admittedly limited, but because of my wife’s family, I have the opportunity to watch and learn. My children get to spend lots of time at the farm. There are times to plant the seeds, to care for the fields, and to harvest the crop. If my father-in-law went to a barley field to harvest soybean, or went to harvest in the spring instead of the fall, his efforts would be wasted. Are we spending time in the wrong field, or at least at the wrong time?
In the context of this verse, Jesus is travelling through various cities and villages, proclaiming the Gospel and healing all kinds of diseases. He is encountering people at their point of deepest need, and is moved to compassion by what he sees. Compassion is one of my favourite words, because it refers deep in the gut; it’s a gut-wrenching feeling.
Can I be honest? When I look at youth and children in my church, I don’t feel compassion for them. I love them, but I don’t feel compassion. They are in families bringing them to church; being raised by parents who at some level recognize the importance of pointing their children to Jesus. I've learned that my influence will never outweigh the influence of those parents (and it shouldn't!). God put us in families and not in youth groups (Praise the Lord!). They are in churches, and these parents need to be reinforced by adults across all generations. The youth and children need to be continually reminded that they are loved and cared about, and frankly, I think we need to do better at this.
But that doesn't drive me to compassion.
What stirs compassion? Walking through the high school, knowing that most of these students have no awareness of who Jesus is, and knowing that our Christian students huddle in classrooms. I have compassion for those students who don’t know Jesus. I have compassion for the girl who told my daughter not to say “Jesus” because it was a bad word. Compassion mounts in me when I walk downtown and see people walking who likely don’t know who Jesus is.
Why do we spend so much effort and attention on children and youth programs that are only reinforcing the values that the children are already receiving from home? If we really experienced compassion and wanted to labour in his harvest, would we not do things differently? How will we reach children and youth who don’t know Jesus? Outreach programs can be great, but we also need to think about their parents.
I don’t know what this looks like. Maybe missional communities, small pockets of people committed to living out the gospel together? New locations, without the burdens of mortgages or ongoing maintenance costs? Relational opportunities instead of burdensome programs? Coffee shop or pub meetings instead of “come-and-see-us” events? I’m becoming less convinced that the system we’re running is actually having Kingdom Impact. I certainly don’t feel like I'm gathering a harvest. Am I spending time in the wrong field?
What do you think? Add your comments below or tweet Dan @danpyke
I'm working on a follow-up blog post for next week on how we take steps into the harvest field - into our neighbourhoods, rinks, schools, coffee shops, gyms, workplaces... So, if you have ideas...