I was recently out walking with friends when we crossed a barley field. I found myself ambling at the back with an eight-year-old boy absorbed by the ripened ears of barley all around him. It was futile to chivvy him along. He was content to stop and pick the tallest, brightest and ripest stems.
Suddenly we heard the rumbling of an engine in a nearby field. ‘It’s a combine harvester!’ he shrieked.
His pace quickened in order to be the first to watch the combine at work. After all, what is a handful of barley picked at arm’s length compared to the sight of a great machine scything its way through a 300-acre field?
Many of us feel like we have spent the last six months plodding along at the back, heads down and preoccupied. Perhaps the last thing we want to be doing is engaging in the wider world. We’ve had to focus on small pickings: getting church online, reaching out to those dropping off the radar, trying to make the most of evangelistic opportunities on our door-steps.
With so much to preoccupy us locally, we mustn’t miss bigger picture. There are times when we need to hear the rumble of the combine harvester and have our eyes lifted up to see the world from the perspective of Christ himself, the Lord of the harvest.
In John 4 Jesus does this with his disciples.
They had missed the evangelistic encounter between Jesus and the woman drawing water at the well. Their mission was simple: buy supplies from Sychar, fortify Jesus with a hearty meal and continue the baptism ministry (cf. John3:22). What could be more important than serving Jesus in this way? This Samaritan woman was a bit of an inconvenience. ‘Rabbi, you must eat something!’
Jesus responds with the priorities of his mission:
‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.’ (v34).
Jesus’ dealings with this woman reach into the heart of his job description: bringing people into a true and living relationship with him. No food could sustain or satisfy him more.
What was true for Jesus is true for his disciples:
‘Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes and see that the fields are white for harvest.’ (v35)
Jesus wants them to look upwards and outwards. That harvest is a few months off, but this harvest has already begun:
‘Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony … they asked him to stay with them … and many more believed because of his word.’ (v40-41)
It’s possible be so preoccupied serving Jesus that we can miss the wider global work that he invites his followers to be part of.
‘I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.’ (v38)
We’re convinced that a healthy local church is a church partnering in global mission.
2020 has thrown up numerous surprises but the one we were least expecting was the level of interest from individuals wanting to serve overseas long-term. The list is growing, including the French-speaking world, the MENA region, five countries across Europe and SE Asia too.
Will you consider partnering in this work with us?
Why not set yourself a challenge? Pray for at least one overseas gospel-worker for every gospel worker based in the UK. Invite them into your prayer meetings, either live or pre-recorded.
As you look to strengthen your team of local youth ministry volunteers, how about identifying those who might be able to serve God’s global harvest field? Those who can champion your overseas partners or start preparing to go themselves.
For other ideas about getting your church more involved in global mission, check out our resources.
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Jamie was Director of Misison Partnerships at Crosslinks from 2016 – 2021. Before this, he was a Crosslinks mission partner in South Africa and worked in local parish ministry in the UK. Jamie now works with St Nicholas Church in Sevenoaks.
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