Disciples Making Disciples – Harvest Joy
We plant so we can harvest
This is the fifth of six articles in the series “Disciples Making Disciples,” about growing and nurturing disciples for God’s kingdom.
Apricots, mandarins, and lemons fresh from your tree taste sweeter. Tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, and sweet potatoes taken from your garden bring great satisfaction. Even a hobby gardener like myself gets excited when I pick fresh food from my own garden. Usually there are no chemical sprays, and perhaps a bug or two, but when you sink your teeth into a juicy apricot or tomato it all seems worth it.
Whatever the crop, harvest time is when you celebrate. As the Psalmist wrote, “He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him” (Ps. 126:6, ESV[*]).
When people commit to Jesus through baptism they become part of the community of faith, the church.
Harvest is party time.
Sowing but Not Reaping
Right from the start of ministry I loved giving Bible studies; sharing the word of God was a real joy. However, after the first year of ministry, although I had six regular Bible Studies I saw no baptisms. The conference president was concerned and suggested to the senior pastor and the churches I was working with that I needed to shift.
They, however, suggested I be given another year. It was a good year, seeing the first people baptized in whom I had sown the seed and nurtured to decision.
But I had to learn how to challenge people to make a decision. At the end of a Bible study about Jesus I learned to ask, “How would you like Jesus to change your life just as He did others?” About the Sabbath I asked, “Is there anything stopping you from keeping this coming Sabbath?” Or on the topic of baptism, “When do you think you would like to be baptized?”
When working with people, there is no development in discipleship without persons deciding to change their lives. The disciples in the church then harvest the disciples that are ready to make a full commitment to Jesus. This is the process of harvesting.
I wish I had been consistent in asking decision-making questions, as I had a few people later ask, “When are you going to ask me to be connected to Jesus and this church?”
They were frustrated with me. But the fact they asked the question told me they were ready for harvesting. As a church pastor, I often called on those with public evangelistic skills to help me reap those who were ready for harvest, challenging people to a decision. The Holy Spirit uses the public preaching of the truths of God’s Word and calls people to make a public commitment.
Harvesting can happen in personal Bible studies, Bible study groups, altar calls at a Sabbath worship service, or in public evangelistic programs. The latter are often called “reaping campaigns.” No farmer would do all the hard work without harvesting. Nor should any person or church disciple people without challenging people to give their whole lives to Jesus. We all have to count the cost in following Jesus (Luke 14:25-33).
When people commit to Jesus through baptism they become part of the community of faith, the church. We are baptized into Jesus (Acts 2:38, Rom. 6:3). However, Jesus is the head of the church (Eph. 1:22), and committed disciples are part of Jesus’ body (1 Cor. 12). The church not only provides care for new followers of Jesus, it also encourages and challenges them to worship personally during the week and corporately on Sabbath, to serve others in the community, to share the story of what God is doing in their life with others, and to fellowship (Acts 2:40-46).
Harvesting is not just the joy of a baptism, but the joy of integrating new followers of Jesus into the life of the church and participation in service and evangelism. Churches that have an integration process, who immediately give new followers mentors and a role, are harvesting completely.
Disciple-making disciples and churches never stop discipling people with Jesus. Their whole focus is to make more and better disciples.
So when I wish you and your local church an abundant harvest, I’m also wishing a joyous celebration of baptism and the involvement of new followers of Jesus into the life and ministry of the church in the community.
Glenn Townend is president of the South Pacific Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
[*] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.