Sowers and Reapers

Every culture has its celebrities – those who stand above the crowd for their abilities and success in their chosen field. They attract attention wherever they go, command respect, and often receive adoration bordering on worship.

In the movie world, there are any number of stars and directors who we would pay to see, and pay even more to have a photo taken with them. Tom Cruise, Marilyn Monroe, Quentin Tarantino, Clark Gable, Rose Byrne… the list goes on. 

Music, Art, Business, Sport – you name it, there will be celebrities for us to follow and to hang off their every word as if they spoke as gods.

It’s nothing new. The adoration of celebrities seems to be built into our human nature.

Even Christian culture is not immune to a fascination with celebrities. There are plenty of Christian musicians who qualify as celebrities – at least, in Christian circles they do.

But the celebrities we celebrate most may be the evangelists – those who have the gift of preaching Christ, asking people for a response, and seeing people respond in droves.

The late Billy Graham is the most famous recent exponent of this gift. Untold millions heard his call for people to put their trust in Christ. Who knows how many there are in the kingdom thanks to Billy’s faithful preaching?

Of course, there are many others too. Reinhard Bonnke – also deceased – was known as ‘the Billy Graham of Africa.’ Ray Comfort, Lonnie Frisbee, Todd White, Luis Palau; all famous evangelists, all celebrities in Christian culture.

Maybe we put these people on a bit of a pedestal because the seem to be able to do what most of us can’t seem to do – reap the harvest of souls, bringing in fruit for the kingdom.

But we should be mindful that as important and precious is their gift, they don’t work alone. That’s one of the points Jesus made to His disciples while waiting for the Samaritan woman to come back to the well in John 4.

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. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.

For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” [John 4:35-38]

I’m not a farmer, but I know enough about agriculture to know that there is no point going out into the fields to reap the harvest if no one has done the work of preparation first.

Nothing grows without someone planting the seed. And planting is hard work. You have to till the soil, plant the seed, water it, fertilise it, keep the weeds down.

And for so long there is little or nothing to show for your efforts. Sometimes it takes so long that the sower doesn’t get to see the mature crop ready to harvest.

That’s where the reaper – the evangelist – steps in to finish the process. He has the benefit of someone else’s labour when he comes to reap this soul for the kingdom.

Because his work brings immediate and visible results, he is the one who gets all the credit, and achieves celebrity status within Christianity – or within your local church circle.

But I think we should give just as much respect and honour to those who do the work of sowing the seed too. The two depend on each other.

There is no point sowing seed if you don’t expect a harvest. And there is no harvest to collect if someone hasn’t sown the seed.

If your calling and passion is evangelism, be mindful of this. Stay humble, recognise that you benefit from the previous work of others, and thank God that He is faithful to grow the seed that you get to harvest.

If your calling is to sow, don’t be discouraged. It is slow work, hard work, and sometimes appears to be unproductive work. It’s easy to despair of ever seeing a result.

But God knows how to grow the seeds that you plant. And He will do it in His perfect time and in His perfect way. Stay at your task, for we need you. You may not see the results of your labour in this life, but one day you will.

For one day, sower and reaper will rejoice together, along with the angels in heaven, and every soul who was harvested as a result of the work of others.

We look forward to that day, and thank the good Lord for His faithfulness to use our imperfect efforts to build His perfect kingdom.

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