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.
“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” John 4:35 (ESV)
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?