THE HARVEST BEGINS AT HOME
The church of Jesus Christ has been given three basic responsibilities—to God, to believers, to the world.
We are to worship God. We are to strengthen believers through encouragement and teaching. We are to be God’s witness in the world.
Jesus told His first disciples early in His ministry: “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35b). A steward is one who must be observant of the needs and opportunities in his environment. Stewards are interested in being productive (Matthew 24:45,46).
For whatever reason, we have turned inward. We have not opened our eyes. It may be that we have only selectively looked at the fields. They are there, and will be harvested only when God’s people open their eyes and commit themselves to GOING and GIVING.
The Great Commission as given in Acts 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Going to our “Jerusalem.” Giving for the outreach ministry of our local church.
Stewardship of the gospel means going to those in your community and giving to the outreach ministries of your church. Every steward knows that involves time spent using your spiritual gifts, and resources given to support the efforts of the Body of Christ.
As a steward where are your eyes focused? In the above text of John 4 it might be assumed that some have their eyes closed as if sleeping, not caring about the harvest. In Acts 1:11 the angels standing by the disciples asked this question, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?” The implication seems to be: • get on with the commission you have been given, • move out into Jerusalem, • get on with the task of being witnesses and harvesters.
We are witnesses of Jesus Christ wherever we are—in our neighborhood, at work, at school, at play, wherever we come in contact with people. Jesus instructed His disciples to “ask the Lord of the harvest … to send out workers into His harvest fields” (Matthew 9:38). Are we ready to pray that prayer and be the answer to that prayer? Are we prepared to support other workers as God enables us?
As faithful stewards of Jesus Christ, we are to go, and to give of our material possessions. We are to commit ourselves to regular, bountiful giving because of the bountiful gift we have received—our eternal salvation. Write here some specific things you will do this week for Christ as a witness and steward of the gospel, and what you will give toward that work in your local church.
Look at the fields, and give yourself.
REAPING THE NEARBY FIELDS
Open your eyes again . . .
And look a little beyond your local church. What do you see? Other fields? Other people? Others in need? Other opportunities?
The second call of God to His faithful churches is to be reaching out to the fields immediately beyond our own. This is our “Judea.” Just as we need one another as individual Christians, so we need one another as churches in a given area (Presbytery) for ministry. We must work with each other to penetrate the region beyond our local church. This will also involve our GOING and GIVING.
We share our gifted people to assist other churches in reaching their communities and neighborhoods. We send our teams to other places to multiply their outreach ministries.
We should give to our smaller and newer churches to strengthen their witness. We should pray for one another fervently, then put feet on our prayers and become their answers by going and giving.
When we survey the history of the early church in Acts 8:1 we see the people of the house churches in Jerusalem penetrating all Judea and Samaria exactly as the Lord commanded. Persecution assisted the early church in doing its job, but how much better it is to obey and do the job than have to be thrust out through suffering.
Again the command of Jesus in John 4, “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest,” is a real challenge to stewards. The planting of churches in your “Judea” ( Presbytery) is vitally important for expanding the kingdom of God. The needs that exist among the poor call for compassion and service.
The more the community of saints on a Presbytery wide basis marshal their talents and resources the more and greater the impact they will have to influence the culture for the good. Not only is this good stewardship, but it is also effective stewardship.
Ask yourself today, “What do I know of the opportunities and needs within the region of my Presbytery?” If you draw a blank go to your pastor and ask him to give you some ministries that are in need of help, and write them here for a matter of prayer, for giving, and for serving as the Lord opens the door.
Go and give! That’s the call to a meaningful and soul-satisfying ministry for Christ.
HEADING FOR THE REGIONS BEYOND
The next look opens up for us the next region in Jesus’ strategy of mission—the rest of our country.
Northerners and southerners. Easterners and westerners. The Maritime Provinces and the tropical islands. Hundreds of language groups. Ethnics of all varieties. Native Americans in both Canada and the United States.
Our opening our eyes, looking, going, and giving must extend to them also. That’s God’s third call to His church. That’s our “Samaria.” And it, too, takes stewardship of time, effort, and resources in order to carry out this part of Jesus’ mission.
The vision of the Christian disciple in the local church must be enhanced to include his nation—with all the diversity we find on the North American continent. The PCA is organized to help local churches catch the vision for God’s kingdom work throughout our land. Every Committee and Agency in the PCA has some publication describing their mission/vision for kingdom ministry. Yet how many people reading this in the pew know about the wider ministry beyond their local church?
The early church reached out not only to its Judea, but to Samaria as well. These people were not quite like “the rest of us” (Jews), but the gospel was for them as well. You can read about the spread of the gospel to them in Acts 8.
Do you know what your local church is doing to support “home missions”? Where these fields are located? Who is ministering there? How effectively?
What are some ministries to ethnic minorities that your church supports? Some mercy ministries? Some special projects nationwide? If you want to learn more you can begin by getting a copy of the PCA magazine “byFaith.”
It’s your responsibility to know …to pray…to go…to give. You need to be informed; you need to pray specifically; you need to go when the opportunity presents itself; you need to give to home mission church planting.
Notice the progression so far—local church, region, nation. A strong going and giving local church will be involved regionally, and a strong region will be involved nationally. So it starts with you!! You are the one who makes your church strong by being involved and by your faithful tithes and offerings to the ongoing work of Jesus Christ according to His strategy.
The Great Commission and the stewardship of your resources are inseparably connected. Write here some of the PCA national ministries that are on your heart and what you will do to aid with your resources.
THE FIELD IS THE WORLD
Open your eyes and look at God’s entire world—“red, brown, yellow, black, and white, they are precious in His sight.”
That’s the call of God to His faithful church—carrying the gospel to the ends of the earth, the “good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
Disciples of Jesus are to be world Christians—interested and involved in the work of His church throughout His earth. That means GOING and GIVING! We go by recruiting men and women from our churches with the necessary gifts for world missions. We go by praying specifically for our missionaries and for the national churches by name around the world. We go by taking trips to more areas ourselves and by getting involved in the spread of the gospel and in personal witness wherever we meet people in other nations. We give to the work of world missions around this earth. The PCA has a mission force of over 600 missionaries through its Mission to the World. • In Africa, Asia, Australia. • In Europe, the Middle East, Latin America. • In North America beyond our borders. • In the “Third World” countries • Everywhere on Earth!
That is what Jesus meant when He told us to be witnesses to Him in the power of the Spirit “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Are you involved? Will you become involved? It is recorded in Acts 17:6 that as the early church got more involved in taking the gospel to the end of the earth particularly through the Apostle Paul’s team that the opponents said, “these men have turned the world ‘upside down.’”
What role are you playing in turning the world “upside down”?
This Sunday is your opportunity to commit yourself and your resources as a steward of Jesus Christ to reap the harvest in the twenty-first century beginning at home in your community, in your Presbytery, your nation, and finally the whole world. Today ask yourself, “Lord what do you want me to do with my life, with my time, and with my resources?”
Here is your opportunity to become a steward of the gospel. Make the most of it by your commitment of time in prayer, and generosity of sacrificial giving locally, regionally, nationally, and worldwide.
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