I appreciate where I came from, and where I still live. The farming metaphors are reminders of what Jesus often references in the Bible. The rough on the outside, but often kind on the inside, farmers of Middle America also remind me, in many ways, of the Bible apostles.
A decade ago, one such farmer worked with us at our small business. He was an evangelist. We liked to catch one another at the coffee counter as often as possible: to share what the Lord had put on our hearts that day.
One morning he left me an index card on my desk.
He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field”Luke 10:2 NIV
He had underlined, but the workers are few. Reading through his farmer scrawl convicted me and challenged me all at once- to ramp up my own evangelism efforts. To get to work for Jesus.
I know enough about farming to know that nobody harvests unless somebody has first planted and tended. And so my coworker often shared the ways he had scattered another seed while he was out and about meeting customers. Other times, working side by side with the other guys, he had felt the need to do some tilling, and had exhorted one of them.
The thing is, though, here in Middle America the weather regularly shuts us down. Time and again. We are forced to find something else to do today because what we had planned for the day is no longer going to work, due to a turn in the weather.
This is more of a problem in the Spring, when lingering winter cold and storms can blow in suddenly. But when conditions suddenly open up and seed planting time goes, we go too, heading outdoors to get after it.
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.1st Corinthians 3:6-8 NIV
In the late summer and fall, when the crops can be harvested, we tend to have less fickle weather and a longer season to bring it all in again. Even still, the farm country adage remains a pretty year round thing: when it goes outside, we go too. And so as I watched my rough on the outside, kind on the inside coworker dropping whatever he was doing, often, in order to tend to the Lord’s work, I noticed he was always watching the weather, in a sense.
And it seemed he prioritized seeding over harvesting too. Because the window is a bit narrower, the whole process a bit more delicate: when it comes to planting those original gospel seeds. Takeaway being: those who are first coming around to Jesus are going to require a lot more of our time, and a lot more of us dropping what we are doing and tending to them.
He had a way of knowing when someone’s heart had been freshly tilled and was eager for a seed of truth. Or when a storm had just passed through and made a muddy mess and now the soil needed cultivating; to break up the cracked and hardened topsoil. Or when something good and true in another was ripe and just needed someone to pull it all together and bring it into the barn so it could feed others. He was flexible, willing to switch his workday course if he had opportunity to plant, water, till-soil, or harvest for Jesus.
The weather is always changing in Middle America. As is the climate in the world, it’s openness to the gospel, and it’s acceptance of our discipleship efforts. As evangelists we need to watch out for all those things. Therein we can learn the timing involved with planting, tending, and harvesting. When the field work doesn’t go, we find other things to do, indoors, to redeem the time. Knowing that a morning cloud break, (an opportunity to witness to someone) may turn into an afternoon of rain, so we better go quickly, whenever we can go.
If a newbie believer with the freshly tilled soil of hard life circumstances, asks us a question about Jesus, or seems to need encouragement, we see that kind of thing as a break in bad weather. We understand we are dealing with a tender shoot that needs extra care, not a hardened head of ripe grain (which often needs a bit of rougher handling to separate the seed from the chaff). We drop what we are doing and get busy working His field instead. And then, stuck inside later that day while it pours, we will be glad we went into the fields when we had the chance.
And so I’ll repeat the challenging Bible verse a farmer-for-Jesus once left on my desk. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Do you see the calling in it? Are you willing to drop whatever you are doing and go to work in His fields when the opportunity comes?