Let’s Quit Kidding Ourselves About Missions
The Parable of the Apple Pickers
By J. M. Weber
Once upon a time there was an apple grower who had acres and acres of apple orchards. One day he went to the village, contracted for 1,000 apple pickers, and charged them with their responsibilities. He said to them, “I want you to go out into all my orchards and harvest the ripe apples, building storage facilities for them so that they will not spoil. I will provide all you will need to complete the task, and I will reward you according to your faithful ness when I return. As a group you will be responsible for the entire operation, but, naturally, all of you will not be able to do the actual harvesting, as some will be engaged in carrying supplies, others in caring for the physical needs of the group, and still others in administrative responsibilities.”
He then gave specific instructions to various individuals, making some pickers, and others packers, and others truck drivers, and administrators, and cooks, and accountants, and storehouse builders, and apple inspectors. Although everybody could pick apples, 100 were designated as full-time pickers.
In all, the apple grower had 10,000 acres of trees, and the 100 pickers started out at once to begin their harvesting work. Ninety-four of the pickers started picking right around the homestead, while 6 packed up a few supplies and headed out to the orchards many miles away.
In time, the 800 acres immediately surrounding the homestead blossomed with apple storehouses filled to overflowing with beautiful apples, and the orchards on those acres boasted thousands of apple trees almost picked bare. In fact, the ninety-four apple pickers working in those 800 acres were having
more and more difficulty finding apples to pick, so, having time on their hands, they decided to put more effort into building larger storehouses and developing better equipment for picking and packing their apples. Although there were yet apples to be picked from trees on the central 800 acres, here
and there were small orchards in some rugged country a bit more difficult to reach where the trees still had large crops to be harvested, apples by the tens of thousands were rotting and falling to the ground on the remaining 9,200 acres because the six pickers sent out to work those fields were simply not
able to gather all the fruit that was ripe.
From time to time some of the full-time pickers passed away, but back at the homestead members of the Society for the Picking of Apples were faithfully producing more prospective pickers, and they had a number of schools that specialized in training apple pickers. One day a prospective apple-picking
student proved to have some special talents for picking quickly and effectively, and when he heard of the thousands of acres of yet untouched or chards he began thinking and talking of heading out into one of those faraway orchards. But some of his friends began to discourage him by saying, “With all
your talent and ability, you would be far more valuable here around the homestead. Why, you could help to harvest apples from the trees on our central 800 acres more rapidly and give all of us that much more time to build bigger and better storehouses, and perhaps you could even help us devise better ways to use our big storehouses since we have more space than we need for the present crop of apples.”
Trouble soon developed among the ninety-four pickers around the homestead. Some began stealing apples that had already been picked, and although there were still enough trees even on the 800 acres for all the available workers, some began fighting among and even in the trees. Some living on the northern edge of the homestead began sending their trucks to haul off apples from the southern side, and those on the south side sent their trucks to gather on the east side. Even stranger yet, near each of the apple pickers, homes were trees that were for one reason or another a bit more difficult to work. The apples were harder to get off, requiring a bit more time and effort, and the Society for the Picking of Apples hit upon a plan whereby the members of the society living in the east end of the homestead
would send special pickers to those difficult trees in the west side, and those in the west side would send pickers to the difficult trees in the east side.
With so many workers and so few trees, the pickers and packers and truck drivers, and all the rest of the Society for the Picking of Apples living on the homestead, had lots of time for things other than just picking apples, so they began building nice houses and making a better life for themselves. They were very conscious of the proper styles of dress, and when the six pickers from the far-off orchards returned to the homestead for a visit, it was evident that they had not kept up with the styles. But those on the homestead were always good to the six, and they always gave them the red-carpet treatment. Nevertheless, somehow or other those six always had a difficult time understanding why the Society for the Picking of Apples continued to designate 96 percent of the budget for bigger and better apple-picking methods and equipment and personnel for the 800 acres around the homestead and only 4
percent for the really ripe orchards out in the distance. The six knew that an apple is an apple wherever it may be picked and that the apples around the homestead were just as important as apples far away, but somehow or other they could not erase from their minds the tens of thousands of trees away out there which had never been picked, They longed for some pickers, and packers, and truck drivers, and supervisors, and equipment-maintenance men, and ladder builders, yes, and even some professionals to teach better apple-picking methods out there where the apples were falling and rot ting on the ground.
Somehow or other they had in their hearts the nagging question of whether or not the people in the Society for the Picking of Apples were really majoring on the task assigned to them by the owner of the orchards.
There were those, of course, who were convinced that apple picking requires the best of equipment, so they were developing bigger and betterladders and nicer boxes in which to store the apples, and they raised the standard of qualifications for full-time apple pickers. But when the owner returns and sees the acres of untouched apples, I wonder how happy he will be about the bigger and better ladders.
Beloved, lets quit kidding ourselves about the command.
In spite of all that has been written about the command and the call in relation to missions, there still remains much confusion. The call, the command, and direction are all different. The call comes to all believers, all are called of God to give themselves entirely to Him for His service. We, as a redeemed people, are no longer to be of this world. We are pilgrims and, strangers dedicated to God, and we are constantly warned in the Scriptures not to become entangled with the things of this world.
“No man that warreth entangleth, himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (Tim. 2:41).
All those who name the name of Jesus Christ are called to be soldiers of Jesus Christ. That is the call.
We have also seen that when we respond to the call of God for our lives, our Commander in Chief then comes through with specific direction for each individual soldier. He directs one into the medical profession, another into the teaching profession, another into business. The thrilling thing is that God has a unique plan for the life of every one of His children, and He will give direction for every detail if His children desire such direction. But just as the believer is free to reject the call of God for his body, so he is free to ignore the directions God has for him.
But what about the command? What about that thing we refer to as “the Great Commission?” Perhaps I can illustrate it in this way. A nation finds it necessary to go to war with another nation. A call is sent out for all citizens to give themselves for the war effort. Those who respond to the call are then divided into different categories.
Some are qualified to bear arms and go out to do the actual fighting, while others are sent to work in the factories, the mines, the fields. Some are asked to make the guns and the uniforms, others to grow the necessary food. Some train the fighting men, others handle logistics, planning, finance, or research and development of new weapons. Which of those we have mentioned can we do without? None, of course. All are important to the war effort. Now, what is the call, what is the command, and what is direction? The call, which goes out to everyone, is for the people to give themselves for the war effort.
The direction is that which determines what each individual is going to be doing in the overall program. And the command is the actual commission to go to war.
Notice a very important fact at this point, for it is here that many become confused. The command, in this case, is to wage war with the enemy, and this command is not to an individual but to an entire nation. In our apple-picking parable the command to go out and harvest 10,000 acres of apples was
not to individuals as such, but to the entire Society for the Picking of Apples. In order to obey that command the society had to have ladder builders and truckers and teachers and a host of support facilities. The command was to go out into all the orchards and gather apples, an impossibility for the individual, but a real option for the society. In the same way, our Commander in Chief has given His church a command. That command is, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20, NIV).
That command, if taken as a command to an individual, is an absolute impossibility. There is no way that I, as an individual, can possibly go into all the world and preach the gospel, nor is it intended that I should attempt to do so. It is here where the great teaching relative to the body of Christ is so important, for it was to His body that Christ gave the great commission, the command to get the message out to the entire world and make disciples. That body has many members, and each member has a different function. But (and I emphasize that conjunction) the problem is that too many within that body today relegate the command to just a few members of the body. Our God-given command is to be witnesses to the entire world, and the contention I am making is that, like those in the parable of the apple pickers, a large segment of the body of Christ is busily engaged in fulfilling part of the command on only a small part of the field, and confusion abounds on every hand. In other words, we are kidding ourselves about the command for missions.
The church is instructed to go, to pray, to give; and it is only as the body of Christ operates as a body, each member fulfilling his responsibility, that the job gets done. We all cannot go personally to a foreign field, but the church can go as it sends some of its members. And every member does become a part of the whole as he “goes” right where he is. We all can give to some degree, but there are those whom God has blessed with greater financial resources, and it is His intention that those greater resources be used for the sending program of the church.
Acts 13 is a thrilling example of this very principle at work in the New Testament church. The church was not waiting for some individual to volunteer.
The believers were sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and they sent the best-qualified men they had. They knew what the command was, and the carrying out of that command became their number one objective. There is a great deal of talk about “majoring in missions” among us today, but the phrase “minoring in missions” might be closer to the truth, and possibly “dabbling” would be even closer to the facts. I know that some are going to find fault with this statement, but look at the facts. When 94 percent of the seminary graduates today are going out to pick apples in just 6 percent of the orchard, are we majoring, minoring, or dabbling? When 96 percent of church income is being used in the ministries and programs dealing with 6 percent, and just 4 percent is being used to reach out into the rest of the orchard, are we majoring, minoring, or dabbling? When veteran missionaries in various places around the world are telling of great influxes of new converts and of their total inability to meet the challenge for discipling and church planting because of a lack of workers and, at the same time, back on the homestead, the graduate schools for apple pickers are sending out letters asking if anybody
knows of opportunities for their up coming graduates, are we majoring, minoring, or dabbling? When God’s people are living in beautiful houses, driving expensive automobiles, building heated swimming pools, and otherwise enjoying some of the material blessings of the richest nation on earth, and, at the same time, when the few who are ready and willing to head out to the “orchards out back” must take twelve, eighteen, or twenty-four months to get the necessary financial sup port, I ask again, are we majoring, minoring or simply dabbling in missions?
I believe that there are a number of ways in which we are kidding ourselves about the command. In the first place, we have fooled ourselves into thinking that the Great Commission is for the missionary, the ones who “feel called” to leave this country and go to preach in a distant land. And we further fool ourselves by thinking that this type of work is only for the professionally trained theological student. The fact of the matter is that there are some very needy places around the world where the doors are closed to the professional missionary but open to the nonprofessional missionary. I think of the Christian Chiropractic Association, a group of Christian chiropractors who sponsor Christian nationals from some “closed door” countries through chiropractic schools in the States and then send them back to their native countries to witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. The nationals earn their own living, not by making tents as Paul did, but by their practice of chiropractic.
We kid ourselves about the command when we use it to justify much activity not envisioned by the command at all. Had the apple pickers in our parable started picking mushrooms, nobody could say that they were doing something wrong, but they were not fulfilling the command to pick apples when
they were picking mushrooms. Mushrooms, as good as they may be, are simply not apples. Now, if they were picking the mushrooms in order to provide something to nourish themselves with so that in turn they would have the physical strength to pick more apples, we can see the validity of picking mushrooms.
The command to the church is to go out into all the world and disciple the nations, establishing groups of believers in every place so that those groups can in turn join in the overall task, reaching yet others. Planting churches, and by that term I mean evangelizing, training the converts resulting from the
evangelizing, and organizing them into local bodies of believers with officers and leaders as set forth in the New Testament, and starting orphanages are not the same! Planting churches and starting schools are not the same. Planting churches and carrying on literature programs are not the same. And only as the mush room picking can be shown to be a direct aid to the picking of apples should the members of the Society for Apple Picking allow themselves to be so engaged. Otherwise, they are kidding themselves about the command.
The command is that we move forward. The command is that we attack. The command is that we move out and conquer. In other words, we are at war. Jesus Christ has declared war on Satan and all his forces, and every believer has been called of God to join the battle. Notice the emphasis in the Word:
Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong [Cor. 16:13].
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God: . . . the shield . . . the helmet . . . the sword [6:13, 16-17].
This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy . . . that thou by them mightiest war a good warfare [Tim. 1:18]. Fight the good fight of faith [Tim. 6:12].
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier [Tim. 2:4].
These are but a few of the many passages that could be cited to show that we have been commanded to do battle. The terminology of warfare is used consistently through out Scripture, and one would have to be blind to miss it.
At this point it would seem very fitting to consider the warning of Amos in Amos 6:1:
Woe to them that are at ease in Zion. [That is, Woe to the people of God who are at ease!]
Are you at ease? Is your local church at ease? Is there anything about your way of life, your business, your style of living which would indicate that you are involved in a war?
The stories of Israel are filled with illustrations for us today. The command to the children of Israel was that they were to move out and take possession of the land God had promised them, but they only partially obeyed.
It was God’s desire that they have it all, and He promised to make them victorious if they would only obey Him.
The church has likewise been commanded to move out and into the world to conquer it for Jesus Christ. He has again promised victory if we are obedient.
He has promised His presence, His provision, His peace. And the Scriptures abound with illustrations of the day when He will return for an accounting of our faithfulness.
How sad that the only battles many Christians have engaged in are battles with self and with other Christians. Are you in His army? Are you desirous of being a soldier of Jesus Christ? Are you involved in “the affairs of this life”? The command is a call to action, a call to war, and I am convinced that the church as a whole is kidding itself about that command.
There is a burning world to be conquered for Jesus Christ, and we are playing games in our own back yard. I am constrained to ask, If the church of Jesus Christ were obeying the commands of its Commander in Chief today, if the local church were doing what the Scriptures indicate it should be doing, would there really be the need for mission societies to be involved in the interurban ministries as we have them today?
Praise God for the home mission societies and the interurban ministries they are carrying on, because the local church has not obeyed the commands.
But the church is in Chicago. The church is in New York. The church is in Denver. Why do we need interurban missionaries? Because the church has failed to pick the apples in one section of its own backyard, leaving a cluster of trees for some “specialists” from another area to come and harvest. On the local level we work with the people living in the inner city, we go to school with them, we ride buses with them, we attend ball games with them, we haveall kinds of contacts with them, but when it comes to reaching them for Jesus Christ, we have to call in the specialized apple pickers. Who is kidding whom?
Again I ask, Are we at ease in Zion? Are you aware of the fact that the church has been commanded to reach a lost and dying world and that you are a vital part of that church? Are you aware of the fact that Jesus Christ came to seek and to save the lost, and that while there still are many lost among the 6
percent of the North American continent, by far the greater portion of the lost are out in the regions beyond? And are you aware of the fact that the church in America is primarily focused on the 6 percent, and the fact that you and I are part of that American church, so we share the responsibility?
Beloved, let’s quit kidding ourselves about the command.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”