By: Steve Holt Sr.
My position from the beginning is that the church through the millennia has focused on harvesting to the exclusion of sowing and watering. As a result, we are in an age when the gap between believers and non-believers is arguably as wide as it has ever been. The fields are not white as they may have been in Jesus’ day. Jesus appeared on earth “in the fullness of time”—the right time because God knew it was right, when the fields were white. Even God himself is sensitive to the seasons.
The fields in Jesus’ day had been sown centuries before by prophets and others who, as agents of God, told the story in both word and deed. The entire Hebrew record is that of God cultivating the human race in preparation for the One who was coming. God worked the process by using hardships of slavery, famine, drought, oppression, persecution, and injustice as well as the blessings of deliverance, mercy, bounty, and promise to create a thirst in people for the coming Messiah. John the Baptizer continued the watering process by pointing to “another” who would take away the sins of the world. Even John’s baptism wasn’t a harvesting baptism, but, rather, it pointed forward to the miraculous harvest we see begun in the book of Acts.
This blog is not the place to cover the history of what happened after Jesus’ ascension when his people took their eyes off the fields, taking matters into their own hands to build the church—which, according to Jesus, only he can do. Long story short, we know what we have today as a result: skepticism, division, fear, denominationalism, sectarianism, an ever-widening gulf between believers and non-. Suffice it to say we have generations of work to do to repair the harm done to the fields by so-called and well-meaning Christians through the centuries. Harvesting today is kind of like a farmer tearing a young radish plant from the ground and yelling, “Grow, damn you, grow!”
So, as I post my last blog on this subject, Rosten, allow me to sketch out what I think God would have his people be about in this barren time. And please know, I don’t have this as figured out as it might sound. I’m still thinking and testing and guessing. I welcome yours and all other’s thoughts, as always.
First, Jesus says to open our eyes and look at the fields (see above). Before we do one thing, let us consider the field.
My dad grew tobacco, corn, and wheat. I was with him when, in late winter, he would walk around the fields to see what’s there before even one seed or seedling was planted. He would note rocks and tree stumps that had to be removed and field corners that needed rounding. He would analyze the condition of the soil and send samples to the county agent to see what minerals needed to be added or balanced. Then there was the clearing, plowing and tilling…all before one plant or seed was dropped into the soil.
What if every believer dropped their scythe or got out of their combine and simply walked the fields? What if we listened to people? Got to know them and their stories? What if we made no assumptions about people, no judgments? What if we didn’t argue or correct? We just listened. For the next fifty years or so! Here’s what I think we’d find: people at a whole different place than we thought. We would hear their objections, their hurts, their hope and dreams, and their fears. We’d find people with the most outlandish views of God, church and faith. We’d even find “people of peace” and a few who are ready and willing to be harvested. We would treat every person uniquely, based on what we learn. Landon Saunders use to say, “If you treat any two people the same, you’ve mistreated one of them.”
What’s most vital about this stage, perhaps, is that when God’s people are listening and not talking, much of what repels people would not be heard. When we are actively listening, we would not be engaged in our political campaigns, anti-abortion marches, anti-LGBT rallies, church wars, exclusive prayer meetings and elaborate worship services—all of which seem to have worked against the purposes of God. There would be a blissful silence over the land that provides the right climate for seeds of the Kingdom to grow. I’ve heard the language of God is silence.
Planting and watering
When the fields have been properly prepared, the seed can then be carefully sown in human hearts. A lengthy period of listening would put God’s farmers in a strangely unique relationship with people of earth. Once again, perhaps, we’d enjoy the “favor of all the people.” Genuine friendships would form, stories exchanged, trust regained, bridges built and gaps filled in. As the people of God, on whose hearts are written the words of life, we would demonstrate joy, love, contentment, empathy and all those traits seekers don’t often see in God’s people.
Christians living in intentional faith communities would demonstrate to the world, without a word, the “multifaceted wisdom of God.” As we continue to show the world that we are allies, not enemies, messages from God and about God would be welcomed. (God’s word is still like honey, refreshing water, and a lamp to a world that has ears and hearts to receive it.) During this time, the messenger truly is the message. Note: we still have our eyes on the fruit, letting it decide what we do next. So, when there is push back, we step back.
This post has gone on too long. So, I’ll stop and say thanks for this helpful give-and-take. You’ve taught me some things that I will take to heart. I know we’re on the same side, so this exchange has not been about convincing the other of some grave error in thinking. I appreciate you and Laura and can’t wait to have you back from India…na.