Have You Seen Your Field . . . Lately?
By Carlton Coon Sr.
In John 4, Jesus has led His disciples to travel the shortcut from one side of the province of Judea to the other. Jesus’ “I must needs go through Samaria” gave traveling direction. His actions were much more significant than the direction He set. Jesus actually talked with and revealed His deity to a Samaritan . . . a Samaritan . . . woman . . . a Samaritan woman who was immoral. His disciples were astonished — and even more surprised when Jesus seized the “teachable moment” to convey His vision to them. In those few minutes Jesus did not simply give them a vision, He helped them to revise their vision. In a follow-up to Jesus’ dialogue with one woman, the citizens of Sychar made their way to Jesus. As they came, Jesus taught His disciples a lesson of lasting importance. Catch the drift of Jesus’ explanation and instruction as the residents of Sychar make their way to Him. Notice the follow-up:
Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. 35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest . . . 38 I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours. 39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. 40 So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his own word; (John 4:34-41)
It poses a question: Does our vision ever need a revision? We assume our way of seeing things is also God’s vantage point. Peter, James, John, and their peers learned that their take on life was not necessarily that of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ articulated four important principles regarding God’s vision.
(1) He affirmed the important. What He was doing at the well — this matter of evangelism — was the Father’s will. There sounds the “eternal A.” Some activity might be subject to debate, but evangelism was a non-negotiable. So what are we doing about what Jesus defined as “the will of the Father,” a- something more important than a sermon well delivered, a song well-sung, the ladies luncheon, or unscarred paint in the classrooms? In your current activity, both personally and as a – church, does maintenance trump evangelism?
(2) Jesus revised their perspective of the “where” and “when” of the harvest. The disciples were “yet four months” visionaries. Four months from now we’ll be down the road a bit — we won’t be in Sychar. Four months from now what we expect will have matured. In essence, Jesus helped them see an opportunity that existed right before them: “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35).
(3) Jesus didn’t simply “see it,” He named the opportunity. Several commentators note that from a distance, those who walked from their homes in Sychar looked like fields covered with grain. Jesus wanted the disciples to be clear on the prospect. If Jesus visited your town, what would He say to be your best prospects for getting more souls to heaven?
(4) Finally, He gave them the example of how to respond to the opportunity. The Samaritan trip may have started as a short cut, but those who received the testimony of the woman at the well wanted to learn more. A short cut became a journey that took an extra two days. In our journey to the usual, do we have time to be interrupted by an opportunity to do the “will of the Father?”
Revisit the Vision
Is your community a burnt-over field? Actually, there are no burned over fields. Each succeeding generation is another group to be uniquely and specifically evangelized. Some thought-provoking questions only you can answer:
* Is your local effort for youth ministry aimed at “teen-sitting” saint’s children or evangelizing kids with multi-hued hair?
* What are we doing to learn to communicate with a generation that lacks any significant Bible knowledge?
* Have you made a mission trip to Africa but don’t have any black families in your local church?
* How did your Sunday attendance reflect the demographics of your community? Any Hispanic folk?
* How many can you get in your building? How far does your influence realistically reach? Research shows that fewer than 15% of the faithful saints in a church drive more than fifteen minutes to Sunday service. Can you rent another site to start a preaching point or daughter church less expensively than you can build additional space?
Opportunity knocks. German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s observation is sobering, “Hell begins the day God grants you the vision to see all that you could have done, should have done, and would have done, but did not do.”
Those who sit in our pews may need an altered vision, but it begins with altered vision and behavior from those of us in the pulpit. It is happening . . . perhaps we can learn from others. Veteran Home Missionary Scott Smith in Columbia, South Carolina, and Mississippi Home Missions Director David Tipton in Granada, Mississippi, have good black and white saints and leaders working together in the deep south. Quebec Home Missions Director Paul Graham in Montreal leads a revival church with 42 different nationalities represented. The sign reads “United Pentecostal Church” in French, Spanish, and English. Metro-Missionary Gerald Staten in Washington, D.C., is having church with eleven different small groups. Each small group is of a different culture. These are harvesters who are working the field in which they live. We can learn from them.
Does it frustrate God if we fail to lift our eyes to look to the fields that are actually white for current harvest?
Making it work
Notice what Jesus did and didn’t do in Samaria. He connected at the woman’s place in life. He spoke a truth to her that was outside the context of her usual experience. By His presence, Jesus validated the uniqueness of Samaria and the Samaritans. It was okay to be a Samaritan! Jesus did not instruct the residents of Sychar to move to Jerusalem. Apparently, they could live out this newly discovered truth in their setting. How long since you’ve been in a Samaritan setting? Did you affirm people’s culture? Have you seen your field . . . lately?
To his disciples, Jesus proclaimed the value of this specific harvest – the Samaritan revival. “Look to the fields . . . ready to harvest.” One soul is a harvest, On that day, Jesus did the Father’s will with one woman of another race and culture. What is one soul worth? Is that soul of less value if it exists in a Samaritan? Not to Jesus. Is a soul worth less if it resides in someone with face-piercing and multi-hued hair? Is a soul worth less if it resides within a black person? Have you seen your field … lately?
Jesus personally invested His time – two more days in Samaria. Jesus’ moment of communication with one woman became two days spent in a community. Probably something in Judea needed the Messiah’s attention, but Sychar was a field ready to harvest. He gave time to the harvest opportunity. In harvest a farmer doesn’t dabble with fence-repair – his crop won’t wait.
Our harvest-field has changed. Across North America Hispanic families are a field ready to harvest. If we don’t seize it today, the opportunity will not be there five years from now. Have you seen your field . . lately?
I’ve spent a bit of time in the farm country of the Louisiana Delta. Even the best of farmers can’t gather cotton with a corn picker. It’s a different crop with different equipment and technique required. Jesus spoke differently to the woman of Samaria than to the learned Nicodemus. Paul spoke differently to the Greek audiences than to the Jews. His writing to the Romans was different than to the Galatians. What are you willing to adjust to reach the un-reached? Youth music is usually not the “cup of tea” of elders. It has been that way since Beethoven. Our youth group used to sing songs I’d never heard. At times it was so loud I anticipated it knocking the paint from the walls. Did I like it? Not much. Did I allow it? Sure. Why? Because there were dozens of newly saved teens sitting in those meetings because of something that spoke their language. Have you seen your field . . . lately?
1. What does the field you labor in actually look like today? One can become oblivious to what surrounds them. Research the demographics of your area in regard to race, income, age, and culture. There are many good websites providing information specific to your area.
2. Compare those findings with what you already have coming to church.
3. Have a conversation – I mean a real talk – with someone who rides a skateboard and has several colors in his or her hair. Hard to break through wasn’t it?
Call one of the pastors I’ve mentioned and get their perspective on what they had to adjust or change to be effective.
5. Invite someone from your community, but not from your race, culture, or background into your home. It won’t hurt you. It will probably help you.
6. Contact or visit a church that is being effective in evangelizing lost teenagers, such as west Monroe,” Louisiana (Pastor Mark Foster) or Chesapeake, Virginia (Pastor Jack Cunningham).
This article “Have You Seen Your Field…Lately?” written by Carlton Coon Sr. is excerpted from the Home Missions Newsletter a Sept/ Oct 2007 edition.