Why all pastors should be farmers

By Tim Spivey

I’ve never been a farmer. Then again, I’ve been a farmer in training as long as I can remember. Let me explain:

Farmers understand how things grow. They are planted, watered and harvested. They understand the organic process, and they understand what happens if they don’t plant, water or harvest: they reap what they sow – nothing. There is both a steadiness and urgency to farming those in ministry need to understand. Just think about how often Jesus spoke of vines, fields, harvests, soil, seed, or wheat. He saw there are real similarities between how people grow and how nature grows.

On this Monday morning, there is one concept sticking with me from yesterday’s sermon: harvest. In Matthew 9 and John 4, Jesus speaks of a bumper crop needing to be picked with few workers. The occasions appear to be different, but the problem is the same – too much picking to be done and too few pickers. There is an urgency to what He says. For, if the harvest isn’t harvested, it is wasted.

I’ve always wondered why there is a shortage of workers to join Jesus in the harvest. I think a big part of the answer lies in John 4, where Jesus’ disciples can’t understand why He’s talking to the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus says, essentially, “I was harvesting, of course.” He didn’t see her as someone/something to stay away from. She was ready to be harvested for the Lord. Jesus could see the harvest when others couldn’t. Even His own disciples saw desolation. He saw field white unto harvest.

In my experience, there is a clear correlation between our ability to see the harvest field and both our joy and effectiveness in ministry. Ministry is obviously God’s work, but He works most powerfully through those who work with the joy and urgency of a farmer at harvest time. He or she cannot tarry, and they wouldn’t want to–for their labors are finally bearing fruit that may spoil with time.

I wonder how it might change our approach to ministry if we could see our neighborhoods and our spheres of influence as fields bulging with bumper crops rather than places of desolation under the oppression of the Evil One. The harvest hope brought by the eyes of faith is an infinitely stronger ministry force than the spurs of despair or the gentle rocking of apathy.

Our most effective ministry prayer after a prayer It’s almost like in the movie Field of Dreams–only those who could see the game could care about the baseball field. In ministry, it’s seeing the harvest that makes us get out of bed in the morning. It’s the hope of God changing lives that helps us overcome intense struggle and crushing discouragement. It makes us thankful to be doing often thankless work–because in a voice only a servant can hear, we hear Jesus’ “Well Done.” We must ask God to give us the gift of the farmer’s eyes to see what God is doing–the eyes of a harvester, not a disgruntled day-laborer.

Every great minister I’ve known has a farmer’s eyes. They see the harvest and with great joy and are diligent to the task. They realize a white harvest field is a gift, and they treat it as such. The wheat around us have names, jobs, and real barriers standing in the way of salvation and abundant life. Let’s pray for eyes to see the fullness of the harvest field–to see what they can become in Christ.

Then, let’s grab a basket and go harvesting.

Dr. Tim Spivey is lead planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, CA. Tim is also an adjunct professor of religion at Pepperdine University and purveyor of New Vintage Leadership, a blog offering cutting-edge insights on leadership and theology. He is the author of numerous articles and the book “Jesus, the Powerful Servant.”


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