By Leonard Sankey
In one way or another, every disciple of Jesus is challenged by the thought and vision of “fields that are white unto harvest,” a phrase used by Christ Himself in John 4:35. Our Bible Schools and missionary organizations were founded because someone caught a glimpse of a harvest that is “truly plenteous”, but with few laborers involved in the fields. (Matthew 9: 37, 38)
This morning I suddenly realized that I was singing:
“Oh, Senor, es mucha la labor, Y obreros faltan ya. Danos luz, ardiente fe y valor, y obreros siempre habra.”
A free translation from Spanish is:
“O Lord, there is much work, and workers are lacking.
Give us light, fiery faith, and courage, and there will always be laborers.”
The words in Spanish find their inspiration in the verses and chorus written in English by J. O. Thompson:
“Lord of harvest, send forth reapers! Hear us, Lord, to Thee we cry. Send them forth the sheaved to gather, Ere the harvest time pass by.”
The music for both songs is written by J. B. O. Clemm.
My dear friends: the multitudes are still fainting, and are “Scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” Jesus still challenges us – “Don’t say there are yet four months, and then cometh harvest . . . behold I say unto you, ‘Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are with already to harvest.”
While our family has been away from Central America for more than 40 years, the pulse of a missionary heart still beats strong. And the thought of “fields that are white already to harvest,” is still a compelling force.
There are Fertile Fields. True, in our North American homeland it often seems that Christianity is being marginalized by hostile powers. Much of our national religious malaise, though, has been brought on by the failure of the church to live its faith and lift its voice.
However, from what I read and hear, there are places where the gospel is being spread, where the message is being accepted, and where Christ’s church is advancing. These are fertile fields that should be capturing our attention, our prayers, and, where possible, the physical presence of those who bear good news upon the mountains and in the plains. The Pauline method of going first to the metropolitan areas is not always the easiest form of reaping the fields, but it is where the concentration of human needs is the greatest.
There are Forgotten Fields. A few days ago, I picked up a copy of Irene Hanley’s excellent book, “Israel, Oh My People”. Sr. Hanley, a Jewess, tells of how a public school teacher had come into a real experience of salvation. This school teacher started visiting the Hanley home every other Saturday, and sometimes every Saturday, for eight years, telling Irene about Jesus and salvation. Mrs. Hanley was often hostile, mocking, and unmoved by the teacher’s entreaties. But one day, after all those years, alone in her home, Irene Hanley fell on her knees and cried out to the God the teacher had been talking about. Here is her quote: “As I knelt there, I looked up and cried, ‘O God, if You really are, give me faith to believe.’ And God did! I cried again, ‘O God, if Jesus is Your Son, give me faith to believe this, too.’ and God did!”
I am not sure whether or not Jewish evangelism is being carried on by any of our people. This is a forgotten field.
Also in our own country, another forgotten field is the Native American. While I am aware of holiness people who work among the American Indian, there are not many involved in this work. Not only is the Native American forgotten, but often those who are trying to minister to them are also forgotten. I would like to plead with our churches to take a new look at including Native American missions as a regular budget item, or an object of monthly offerings.
Ropeholders missionary prayer letter lists as least 7 organizations who are working in this forgotten field. Other forgotten fields include, personal evangelism, volunteerism, works of mercy, international students at U.S. universities, campus evangelism, jail and read home ministry, etc.
There are Fallow Fields. I see these areas as the ones where the gospel has been preached, churches have been founded, Christian activities have been sponsored, but, for practical purposes, nothing new has been done for years.
These fields are lying fallow; unplowed, uncultivated, untouched. Where once there was life and productivity, now there is apathy and forgetfulness. Fallow fields are places where revival is needed. . . and that’s just about every where in the United States, and in many of the older “mission fields”. My hearts desire for our nation is that it might come back to a lively interest in godliness and holiness. That our churches may get beyond a shallow Christianity and become robust and confident in God once again.
We need to make sure this “plowing of the field” is biblical and spiritual. Jesus reminds the churches of Revelation that they are to hear “what the Spirit is saying to the churches”. How we need a fresh outpouring of the Spirit to move us out of our complacency and our comfort zone. If, indeed, the Spirit of God Himself visits us again, we need not fear that He will work without the Word: His work will be founded on His inspired Word. And we need the Word as our only objective standard for holy living. But we need the Spirit to enliven our minds, inspire our souls, to enlist our cooperation in this revival outpouring.
There are Fruitful Fields. Every follower of Christ is fruitful. Jesus speaks to the issue of fruitfulness in John 15. Forcefully, blunts, Jesus says in verse 2: “Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He (the Father) taketh away; every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it that it may bring forth more fruit.”
There are Futile Fields. There are places where government restrictions, prevailing religious authorities, and extreme cultural bias, make the spreading of the gospel seem impossible and impractical. Here the “underground church”, “tent-making” missionaries, literature, radio, and social media may provide ways for the church to get the good news of Christ into hostile environments.
There are Fertile Fields – they need to be cultivated for harvest
There are Forgotten Fields – they need to be remembered
There are Fallow Fields – they need to be broken up and revived
There are Fruitful Fields – they need to be submissive to the Divine disciplines There are Futile Fields – they need to be prayed over
“Lord of Harvest, Send forth reapers! Hear us, Lord, to Thee we cry. Send them now the sheaved to gather, Ere the harvest time pass by.”