The Field, the Barn, and the New Farmhand…

12 Apr

It was the summer of 1985, and I was at a four week Navigator summer camp experience at a beautiful place called Camp Forest Springs. I had just heard a message by the state director of the Navigators, a man named Bill Tell. Bill said that while Jesus calls us to labor with Him in the fields which are white unto harvest, many Christians instead end up in the barn, doing many nice things…but not reaching the lost.

After the message that night, I got in a canoe alone and paddled across the lake. I found a little hut, went inside and got on my knees, committing myself to a lifetime of staying in the fields, proclaiming the good news to a lost world. Over the next few months, I wrote this story. I hope that the central message here will forever be the heartbeat of my life, and of our church.

This comes to mind because tomorrow Diane, Josh and Elisabeth will be accompanying Jamie Thompson and some other student leaders to “Dare to Share”, a conference especially designed to move students out of their comfort zones into a world that needs Jesus.

God bless, students – may you spend your lives laboring in the fields which are white unto harvest…


I was called out to a farm one day.

I knew that I’d belong.

But when I arrived, from what I saw,

Something was surely wrong.


The crops were looking ripe that year;

It looked like a pretty good yield.

But you know what caught me by surprise

Was that so few were out in the field.


Now mind you it was mid-afternoon,

And there was lots of work to be done,

But I looked and looked for workers there,

And strangely I saw only one.


So I wandered over to talk to him;

He was reaping in the row.

He said, “Welcome to our farm, my friend.”

I said, “Where did all the workers go?”


Well, they’re often in the barn,” he said.

“They’re always on a break.

But what they say confuses me,

That they’re in there for Jesus’ sake.”


So I thanked my friend and let him go.

As I left, he warned, “Take care.

If you go into the barn, you know,

They’ll try to keep you there.”


As I neared the barn I heard great noise,

And I knew that I was tardy.

For the sound I heard from in the barn,

Why it sounded like a party.


“Oh, joy of joys a new farmhand!”

They met me at the door.

I said, “Hold on a second friends.

What happened to the chore?”


“Well, we’re not so sure the harvest is ripe.”

They answered back to me.

“Yes, four more months now,” another group said.

“Oh, surely that’s the key.”


They said, “And we’re not mature enough yet.

We’ve got so far to go.”

I said, “Maturity comes in the field.

Do you really want to grow?”


“Our work in here is very important.”

Another bunch shouted my way.

“Besides we don’t have the right motivation,

To do field labor okay.”


You’ve got to get in the spirit,” they said.

“Before you go out in the field.

We’ll get into the spirit first,

And then we’ll surely yield.”


“And there’s arrows flying around out there.

The unseen enemy lives.

Do you really want us to go and die?”

They asked me, “Friend, what gives?”


So I thought to myself, I quietly mulled.

I didn’t understand.

“We need more workers out there!” I cried.

“Can no one lend a hand?”


“While the harvest rots,” I spoke again.

“And no one sheds a tear.

Why, you’d never know so many were dying.

By what’s going on in here.”


Well the barn was quiet as quiet can be.

And no one there was phased.

I supposed I had asked for volunteers,

But not a single hand was raised.


I left the barn that very same day,

Though they asked me to hang around.

The work they do inside the barn,

It’s nothing like what I’ve found.


For by the grace of God I labor now,

With my friends out in the field.

Though the arrows fly and I’m wounded some,

I’m safe behind my shield.


For my shield is strong, a shield of faith.

And my sickle’s the sword of God’s word.

And the harvest a flock of sheep without shepherd

Of those who have never heard.


And the Spirit’s there, out in the field.

His presence comforts me.

And the Lord of the Harvest is out there too,

By my side He’ll always be.


And new folks come down the road some days,

All kinds they come, women and men.

Most go off to that place, I’m sorry to say

And are never seen again.


And the barn sits off in the distance now.

When I look there I want to cry.

Why do they all remain in the barn

When millions and millions die?


Posted by on April 12, 2012 in Uncategorized


9 responses to “The Field, the Barn, and the New Farmhand…

  1. James Schwindt

    April 13, 2012 at 5:29 am

    Powerful. Thanks Rog.


  2. Jean

    April 13, 2012 at 9:46 am

    …but I WORK in the barn-oh no! Just kidding, very powerful reminder about being a light outside the Christian arena.


  3. Mark Vande Zande

    April 15, 2012 at 8:45 am

    Thanks for posting this. Really a motivating poem.


  4. rogerknowlton

    April 15, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Thanks Mark!


  5. Jane

    April 25, 2012 at 9:06 am

    I love this poem. It is such a great reminder that SO much work needs to be done outside the barn! I work with Jean “in the barn”! Thanks for sharing your amazing writing talents and wisdom with us. I very much enjoy your blog!


  6. JoAnn Karls

    April 29, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Just read your poem and just Wow! Very convicting. I may not know all there is to know about farming but I can at least plant one flower or pull one weed. It’s better than staying in the barn holding my plant that never gets planted.


    • rogerknowlton

      April 30, 2012 at 8:54 pm

      Well said, JoAnn! Out of the barn and into the fields, white for harvest.



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