By David Stahl

Recently I have been emailing a wonderful pastor friend from Suceava, Romania who has been going through some very tough corrective surgery on his legs and hips. Over the last 13 years he has opened his Bible school, his home, and heart to me.  After the surgeries he has a lot of down time and not being able to put weight on his legs he has plenty of time to put together (writing down what God has done for us and sharing it with people is the very best thing we can do for God) some lessons for the Bible school. God is good at getting us in some positions to where we can do some quality work. Well, he emailed me and asked if I could buy him some VCDs of a certain Bible teacher in the States. A certain church in Colorado use to provide them, but now no more.  How could I say no; for years he has opened the Bible school he is responsible for, opened his home, opened his heart to me, and I know of his character and dedication.  I asked what happened to the church who use to provide the VCDs and he said a new pastor has come in now and they have not heard from the church in over a year.  I thought to myself what was the churches’ (in the past) motive in relationship with the church in Romania? And how could they just break off fellowship without a simple letter, email, or phone call? But then I remembered one of the first things a new pastor must do (if they want to take charge) is consolidate power in the church or he (she in some cases) will have to put out forest fires from the old pastor.  And one of the fastest ways of doing this is making a clean sweep of mission’s support and ministry programs. Sad how political churches in America have become, but make no mistake overseas mission programs in churches bring in big bucks for the local church and for the big denominational churches huge dollars  so that they can pick and choose who gets and who does not get the money, almost like a reward and punishment scenario.  One of the main message projections of churches today in America is “go therefore making disciples of all nations” and to do this my friend it takes a lot of energy, time, and money, especially a lot of money.  Now please do not misunderstand me here my friend I too believe in traveling abroad to share this wondrous Gospel message, but over the last 15 years God has worked much zeal out of me and now He can work some wisdom and understanding in me.  For ministry to be Godly it must be God focused, but sadly we see money and influence on both ends of the spectrum can often becomes the focal point.  From the local church or denomination (not only in the States) they can unite people behind a cause (please be careful in God when people in church gather for an earthly cause), attract people to their church, and collect money to go save the heathens around the world.  And sadly (I have seen this from both side) the folks on the other end are friendly and give invitation only because they can get money from folks to push their agenda and plans, make international connections (very important in some circles) to be able to come to the States (or elsewhere), or invite pastors and teachers to come and hold big conferences and seminars. The bigger the conference, seminar, and name invited the bigger the registration fee can be requested.  It is no accident the big TV Christian evangelists, pastors, and teachers have their mega conferences and seminars at big resorts in Florida, California, and Texas where they get discounts and kick backs, sadly it has become a business.  In all of our years of traveling abroad I have never charged one red cent to come and minister, as a matter of fact we have always either totally funded the BHG conference or seminar or paid a significant portion, but not so with most evangelists, pastors, and teachers that travel abroad.  I have a very special pastor friend in Poland that told me (with tears in his eyes) that the Pentecostal Church in Poland wanted to invite a certain famous TV evangelist (my friend was being gracious, but I believe he was talking about Benny Hinn because of similar stories I have heard and after following him in many countries) for three to four days to come and minister.  My good friend and a team of others traveled to another country and waited for three days to be able to talk with this TV evangelist’s handlers.  After waiting three days on a string to have a quick meeting they were told this TV evangelist charges $250,000 and the host churches will have to provide all transportation, a communication capability, hotel rooms at a really nice hotel, and all logistics. They returned home shocked and contacted their superiors.  Two week later my friend called the TV evangelist and told them all they could get was $75,000 and could with great troubles provide the other requirements.  He was told they would be in touch.   About one week later my friend was called and told the $75,000 was below the work of God in the TV evangelist’s life so he could not come to Poland.  What have we done to the Gospel message to make it about money, influence, and power?  Whatever happened to the simplistic Gospel message the bible talks about?  

My friend the harvest of souls is not to be something to make money, take power and exercise control with. Through the years most churches have gotten this wrong.  The harvest of souls Jesus is looking for is about souls, fellowship, and about us being willing to go (to the other side of the world) in obedience to His word.  The harvest of souls is about God being glorified and Jesus God’s precious Son receiving all the honor and glory for His work on the cross.  Not so that we can save the heathen (we cannot save anyone), but so that God can save souls (ours included) and can work in our lives (becoming more like His precious Son Jesus Christ) and so that Godly fellowship can be established internationally within the Body of Christ.  In Ephesians 2:10 we read, “For we are His workmanship” and as we go in obedience to God’s word He is able to work in our lives.  The more we go the more God can kill our self-life, selfishness, and self-seeking.  I promise God will run us out of our own strength so He (and He alone) can strengthen us with might in the inward man to go and do what He wants done.  Now if this is not your perception of going for God please do not feel bad, the disciples got it wrong also.  The longer I go in God the more I like the disciples because the more I see myself in them, especially Peter. In John we read, “Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. 35Say not ye, 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 white already to harvest. 36And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. 37And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. 38I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.”  (John 4:34-38)  I cannot begin to tell you how many sermons I have heard on these verses.  Now many evangelists, pastors, and teachers often teach that Jesus was talking about fields of produce that was ripe for the picking, but that is not what Jesus was talking about.  Remember the harvest is always about souls and God working in our lives, not things.  Now Jesus did make a reference to a field that needs harvesting, but the field Jesus was talking about was not of food, but of the people that were walking from the town to hear Him speaking. To understand the Scriptures we must not take verses and chapters out of context.  To understand what a chapter is talking about we must read the entire chapter, story, or parable, being explained.  In these verses here we are at the end of the story of the lady at the well.  Jesus has already shared the well of living water with her and she was about to leave, “And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkfest thou with her? 28The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, 29Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? 30Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.”  (John 4:27-29)  Jesus was still talking with the disciples as the people came out from the town to see Jesus.  As they came they were wearing white head coverings (like a scarf) to protect them from the hot sun and as they came 100s if not 1000s of white heads were coming towards them and Jesus said, “behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” Jesus was saying to the disciples; look here comes the harvest I am concerned about, look at the people coming I am concerned about people and their souls.  We too must be concerned about what Jesus is concerned about; people and their souls and not the influence and money they can bring us.  This was not the only time Jesus used a harvest to convey a Spiritual truth to the disciples.  In Matthew we read, “Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; 38Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”(Matthew 9:37-38) Jesus was a master at using the physical realm to express the Spiritual realm. In both portions of Scripture the focus of Jesus’ attention is on the people as the harvest, not things. Jesus tells the disciples (at the end of John 4) that He will send them to the harvest of people that they did not sow other people did the heavy lifting, but they will reap. Other people have gone ahead of them and did the hard work, others have paid the heavy price, but they will get the opportunity to bring in the harvest of souls.  Now the Bible is not written chronologically, but I believe in verse 35 Jesus was fore telling the disciples, in a way they could understand, about His death coming in four months as the beginning point of the great harvest.     

Real men of God do not need to tell hip funny stories, beg, twist arms, or manipulate people oh no, real men of God count on the Holy Spirit to move in the hearts and minds of people to accomplish what God wants.  Real men of God have a correct perspective to God’s order and function. Money is not tied to the wondrous Gospel message as a means to do things, but it is tied to our giving that gives opportunity to others so that others may come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and God is glorified.  Giving is the heart of the Gospel, “for God so loved the world that He gave.”  My friend you cannot be the kind of Christian God wants you to become unless He can teach you how to give by the Spirit.  If we get off track here (like the disciples did with the harvest) all we do in God is missed greatly.  I am amazed at how preachers and pastors beat their people over the head with the 10% tithes.  They say things like, “you better give 10% of your money or God will not bless you, camel cookies!  The legalistic and religious man wants to give 10%, but if we truly give by the Spirit God may require of us to give 70%, 90%, maybe 100% of our resources.  Does God only want 10% of our heart? Please make no mistake my friend God wants 100% of our heart, our lives, and our availability.  Now at times God may require none of your money, but He may require all of your time, require a change of attitude, or a change of heart condition to bring us to the place where He needs to bring us so that we can help bring in the harvest.  We often think bigger is better in God, well bigger in God is not better that is the way man thinks.  God is not so concerned about the big things in our lives, but He is concerned about the little insignificant things, the things we think have no bearing, the little things we think are not so important, but to God they are critical. I have found the bigger something gets in God the harder it is to maintain unity of purpose.  While pastoring in Germany the less administration, less committee meetings, less programs, and less church by-laws we had the more God could meet our need, but the bigger things got and the more the people got into the picture the more troubles and difficulties we had doing things for God. Again, more in God is not better. The Spiritual projection is less not more; less of our opinions, less of our words, and less of our self the more God can move in our lives.  Oh I hope we can see this. 

We must be careful not to run with verses, examples, and stories in the Bible and make everything a “ministry.”  Yes Jesus did say go to the prisons (Matthew 25:35-45) and visit friends and people, but He did not say go start a prison ministry. Jesus did say go feed and clothe the poor, but He did not say go start a feeding and clothing ministry. These are things we must do every day of our lives not because it is a ministry, but because Jesus told us to do it. We must be led by the Holy Spirit to do the things we are told to do, if not we will get off track as the disciples did in John 4 and miss out on what God is really doing. That is the real loss we experience when we do something other than what God expects.  We and God miss out on that which is right (we miss the mark maybe not sin) and God’s expectation is lost.  To me I can see this in a disobedient or approval number line.  On God’s number line there is a point of our obedience or God’s expectation in a given situation or area and then there is the point we find our self.  The difference is either our disobedience (moving to the left, falling short of God’s expectation point) or approval (moving to the right, meeting or surpassing God’s expectation point) at any rate the point is God expects certain things in our lives and we must meet or surpass them to continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.   To help prevent us from falling short we must learn to wait on the Lord (as simple as that may seem) and allow Him to arrange circumstances and situations that will accomplish His purposes and plan for our situation and circumstances, if we get ahead or do something different then what God wants we have complicated things for God and for man.  In Isaiah we read, And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.”  (Isaiah 30:18)  The image of to “wait” here is a servant standing perfectly still with a towel draped over their arm waiting to serve their master.  Here waiting is mutual by God and us.  Can you see the disciples waiting on the Lord or running off to reap the harvest? The harvest is ripe and the Lord is looking for laborers, but He is not looking for just any laborer He is looking for the laborer who has learned how to wait and who has learned how to do things His way.