Summary: The most solid picture of evangelism is still the agricultural picture of planting, waiting and harvest. In this sermon, you will see a fuller development of the harvest.
I have to finally confess that I am not, nor have I ever been a farm boy.
Yes, I grew up in Kansas, in a small town the size of Livingston, surrounded by hundreds of acres of wheat fields, but I never lived or worked on a farm. My dad spent his early childhood on a farm in Missouri, but his careers were in the Air Force and with Cessna Aircraft.
We didn't even have much of a garden.
Yes I went to college for two years in western Kansas, virtually smothered with wheat fields and populated with farm kids from throughout western Kansas and eastern Colorado, but I was never a farm kid.
I worked as a newspaper editor in a town the size of Denair for two years, where most of the news was farm and cattle related. We covered stories about the planting, the insects and weeds affecting the farms. Karen and I wrote countless stories on the agriculture market and the big annual festival as the Beef and Bean Day in the county, but I never, ever was a farm boy.
Indeed I went to a Bible college for four years that was surrounded by corn fields in every direction. In fact, I had to walk on a path directly beside a forty acre corn field to get from married student housing to the main campus.
And now, my friends, I live on the most fruitful agricultural land in the world. I pass fields and trucks hauling the harvest to the canneries daily, but still I am not a farm boy.
Some of you have similar stories to mine. I bluffed my way through many conversations and many stories about farming, not sure how much of my ignorance was showing.
But after 14 years as a senior pastor and a three-time church pioneer, I have learned a great deal more about farming than I had ever imagined that I knew. It is through the imagery of farming that I have been able to make sense of my job and my personal limitations.
For a month, we have been comparing the work of the church to farming. It was the metaphor of choice for Jesus. We have learned that building spiritual relationships with people is comparative to discing or cultivating soil. Sometimes that soil is very hard an takes a lot of cultivation before is it ready for planting. Jesus also taught us that when we hear His words or share His words with other people, it is like planting seeds. When we receive His word and start aligning our lives to it, it is compared with seed taking root in already prepared soil.
Feasting on God's word daily and being adjusted to it is paralleled the growing season, with the process being like tending the plant, including watering.
And, my friends, just like the grapes and the almonds surrounding our city, there is the culmination of the entire process -- and that is the harvest. So much of farming is hard work, but when there is an abundant harvest, it all is worthwhile. Communities, including Turlock celebrate the harvest with festivals like the Fruit and Dairy festival and county fairs. It has a long tradition, dating thousands of years ago for the nation of Israel. The Lord established the Feast of Harvest for the Jews, recognizing how important it is to "cut loose" after all the hard work to get there.
16 "Celebrate the Feast of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field. "Celebrate the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.
Since there have been parallels between each of the stages of farming and the work of God's Kingdom, we again should not be surprised at the comparisons between harvest and God's church.
1. THERE ARE TWO KINGDOM EVENTS THAT ARE COMPARED TO HARVEST.
Evangelism is a broad term we use to talk about our part in sharing the Lord with other people. If we are actively involved in evangelism it is inevitable that we will eventually be involved in a harvest. When a person comes to grips that Jesus is God's only Son and the only Savior by which we can get to heaven, and when they receive Him as their Savior and Lord, it is a time of harvest.
Jesus encouraged His followers to get involved in the harvest part of evangelism:
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
37 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
The word Jesus uses for harvest is identical to the one for bringing in crops of fruits, nuts and vegetables.