I got my first job when I was 14. It was as a custom hay-hauler in Perryton, Texas, seven miles south of the Oklahoma border.
I was an inner-city kid from Denver, but I had some friends from Texas who had a family farm near what at that time was a town of 3,000 people. They approached me one day and said: “Come do some custom hay-hauling with us over the summer. You’ll make a ton of money, and we’ll have a lot of fun.”
I never would have dreamed that my ma would allow me to go to Texas for a whole summer with a bunch of wild Texan farm boys, but she did.
It didn’t take me long to realize I’d gotten myself neck-deep in truly hard work. We loaded and unloaded 1,000 to 1,200 bales of hay a day, six days a week. We’d fill up a semitruck flatbed high with bales we collected from the fields and then empty them into barns or wherever they wanted them stacked.
It was grueling. To this day, it’s the hardest work I’ve ever done (and I was a roofer for 8 years!).
But we weren’t the only ones working hard that summer. Farmers were rushing from place to place. Huge farm equipment was always moving down the highway. Even what looked to be 8-year-old boys were speeding down the street driving Ford F-150 trucks, headed to drop something off or pick something up for their farming fathers.
I asked my friends, “Why is everyone so busy here? I thought this place would be laid-back.” They looked at me like the clueless city boy I was and simply said: “It’s harvest time!”
It quickly became clear to me that harvest time meant all-hands-on deck. Men, women, boys, girls—anyone and everyone was working hard.
Why? Because if you don’t collect the harvest in time, it could rot and die! There was more urgency to farm life than I’d ever imagined.
JESUS AND THE HARVEST
I may have been oblivious to harvest urgency, but Jesus wasn’t.
‘Don’t you have a saying, “It’s still four months until harvest”? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.’John 4:35
There were three primary harvests in Israel. There was a spring grain harvest, a summer grape harvest, and an autumn olive harvest. So, in a sense, you were always four months out from another harvest, no matter what time of year it was. That’s where the saying comes from. You could be harvesting grain in the spring and say, “It’s still four months until harvest.” You could be harvesting grapes in the summer and say, “It’s still four months until harvest.”
It was a tongue-in-cheek saying reminding you that you were always about four months out from another harvest. But Jesus told His disciples to stop looking ahead to the next harvest and start looking around to the current one!
He told them:
‘…I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.’
What the Son of God told His disciples by the well in Samaria that day (probably as the Samaritans were filing out of the city based on the Samaritan woman’s testimony), the Word of God is telling us today:
Open your eyes.
Look at the fields.
They are ripe for harvest.
People are more ready for the Gospel than you might think. I assume this when I talk to someone about the Gospel, and I try to do it every single day. What I find is this: When you engage them in the right way (conversational, humble, curious), most people are open to at least talk about it, and some are ready to put their faith in Jesus right on the spot.
This is especially true of young people after the tragedy and isolation of Covid. When I talk to my fellow evangelists, they say responses to the Gospel by young people at their outreach events have been off the charts over the last three years.
“It’s still four months until summer camp.”
“It’s still four months until our big annual outreach.”
“It’s four months until Dare 2 Share Live.”
Four months is too far away. As 2 Corinthians 6:2 reminds us:
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
NOW, NOT THEN
Start thinking in terms of “now,” not just “then,” when it comes to outreach. Here are some ideas to help you:
The Go Movement
If it’s April or May and teens are busy with year-end activities, make sure one of those activities is a last push to share the Gospel during the school year. They can even check out this resource from the GoMovement that challenges believers to share Jesus throughout the month of May.
Go Share Day
The last Saturday of every month, hundreds of youth groups around the world participate in #GoShareDay. They do creative outreaches that incorporate prayer, care, and share. Go to the website to discover a list of suggestions.
If your teenagers go to a public school, then in the words of my good friend Chris Selby, they are federally funded missionaries. Every single day is an opportunity for them to build friendships and engage peers in Gospel conversations. Even most students who don’t go to public school have a smartphone. Have them download the free Life in 6 Words app and start engaging a circle of friends online through the app’s QuickStarter questions and shareable videos.
It’s harvest time!