This mission blog post will focus on the First 30 Days in the Harvest and will serve as a descriptive account of those days. My hope is that it will give a snapshot into some of the positive benefits and challenges which can arise as part of that intentional harvest time.
Background Brief History: I came to this church planting work with e3 Partners and #NoPlaceLeft from 23 years of vocational ministry which included youth ministry, mission field work, Associational work, Christian Education Bible teacher, and Discipleship Pastor. Each of these ministry opportunities was a blessing and I do not regret the experiences at all, but from a personal standpoint, I came to realize that in many ways, I had replaced church work with actual harvest work. There is a difference and it became very apparent to me that God wanted me to make a change. I had spent a significant amount of time teaching and it was time to switch to training. Teaching is important because it can edify and build up/increase knowledge but training is done with an expectation and accountability towards the ‘doing’. I needed that switch for me personally as well as for my ministry. The e3 Partners and #NoPlaceLeft church planting structure provided that for me. The emphasis on the Great Commission and on us being Ambassadors of Christ who are called to work towards #NoPlaceLeft that has not heard the gospel of Jesus Christ was exactly what I needed to align with. Making Disciples, Planting Churches and Mobilizing Missionaries resonated with me. Luke 10:1-2.
30 Days in the Harvest Structure: By far, the best approach to entering this intentional harvest based ministry is to get you in the harvest as soon as possible. The 30 Days in the Harvest rationale is to immediately upon entering your mission field to engage those in the harvest. During this time, you are not to be distracted by team meetings, administrative duties or to spend non-harvest time with other missionaries or legacy church staff. The goal is to bond with the brokenness in your mission area before bonding with your other missionary staff/legacy church Christian workers. Your time is divided into Abiding Time with God- prayer, fasting and the Word, Learning Time that is harvest based and Harvest Time. Harvest time takes up the most of the schedule. It is divided up into harvest time in the community with one other fellow Christian praying for and sharing the 3 Circles Gospel Presentation with whomever you encounter. The other is solo harvesting or follow-up with people who either accept Christ or show interest to learn more. Throughout this time, you are learning your neighborhood and its needs and are discovering the segment groups/ethic groups in the area. You are also getting incredible practice in sharing the gospel and in beginning initial discipleship. This is by far the best on-the-job training.
Harvest Outcomes: It was in this harvest time where I was able to implement the Four Fields methodology and begin to seek out Persons of Peace and Houses of Peace. As gospel shares produced green and yellow lights, the personal harvest times served as moments for follow-ups with yellow lights and to begin discipleship/church starts with green lights.
The area that I am working in is comprised mostly of Haitian, Hispanic/Latino, Caucasian, African American and some European descent peoples. There is also a heavy drug recovery/rehab population that resides here as well as homeless individuals. Most of the work developed through direct engagement into the neighborhoods where we prayed for and shared the gospel through PoP and HoP searches. We also went into the area parks where it is extremely easy to engage a large number of people. There has been initial success in these efforts and we have found PoP who are now trained and going out with us as well into the harvest. Being out in the harvest has also helped me to make contacts with other ministries and there has been a ripple effect as other individuals, ministries, and churches have seen what God can do when the harvest is actively engaged. It has even led to a church back home adopting and training in the #NoPlaceLeft movement as their ministry/discipleship focus.
At this point, as a result of the 30 Days in the Harvest, there are 3 churches that are meeting made up of those in the recovery segment, Haitian community and then one church that is meeting in my apartment complex.
Pompano is a Haitian American who we found in the harvest while at an area Haitian restaurant. He has been trained 4.1.1 and has begun the Commands of Christ discipleship with me and has gone out into the harvest and has shared the gospel as well.
Emile is also a Haitian American 19 years old who I met out who lives in the Boynton Beach area near me and where there is a large population of Haitians that I am trying to engage. He has been trained 4.1.1 and we are beginning Commands of Christ along with Angelica who came to Christ as Emile was being trained in the 4.1.1 at Dunkin Donuts.
Stuart and Mary Payton who are existing believers have come together with me for additional training and to engage the harvest right where we live. We have gone out in the harvest and have started the Commands of Christ weekly and are inviting those in our apartment complex to join us since this is our closest oikos. At the writing of this blog, this church start has 9 in attendance and have been through 4.1.1 training and have initiated the Commands of Christ training as well as harvest time. A team seems to be forming that will be helpful in engaging the segment groups found in this area.
What I am trying to reveal is that God used that 30 Days in the Harvest to provide me a foundation to build on. I have baptized 7 new believers and 1 still to be baptized, trained existing Christians and harvesters who are being sent out in the community. I have churches that have formed that are going through the Commands of Christ weekly as continual and immediate discipleship. This is a great thing to have in place and after only 30 days, it shows that faithful obedience to being in the harvest will be rewarded by God. Had I neglected immediate harvest time, I think I would not have hardly any of this to build on.
The 30 Days in the Harvest has also allowed me to see some of the initial challenges in church planting and to seek out assistance at the outset to help deal with these. You begin to learn how to deal with rejection through red lights and how to deal with no shows whom you thought were yellow lights. You quickly learn how to move on without letting rejection get to you and that red lights are to be celebrated because they mean that at least you were in the harvest. Also, I learned that you must work immediately to get back with people who need follow-up. It gets harder to connect again the longer the time is between your first interaction.
You also will learn that this is a messy ministry. What I mean by that is that you will hear and experience things that will make you uncomfortable; make you cry; and even might make you angry. The brokenness you will encounter will cause a lot of emotions in you because you are taking the time to really listen and expose yourself to the pains in the world as it is lived apart from Christ. But, the hope that you can offer in the midst of that brokenness and messiness is worth it. You are being the Ambassador that God called you to be. 2 Cor. 5:17-21.
If you have read this far in the blog, I will now tell you why the title says Living Life Backwards. I told someone the other day that I felt like I was living life backwards. After so many years in the ministry, I have finally got myself into the harvest where I know I should have been a long time ago. I have finally felt that I am acting more in obedience to how God has been leading for a long time. Something that should have been a major part of my ministry from the beginning is now my focus many years later. POINT: Get out in the harvest now; not later. Matthew 28:18-20. www.obeychrist.com and checkout the movement resources here on my mission blog
You can also access my 30 Days in the Harvest schedule here: 30 Days in the Harvest Schedule
Next steps: Just keep moving forward. Make Disciples, Plant Churches, Mobilize Missionaries and repeat……..train, train, train…..do, do, do!