The Harvest

I listen to the news radio station on my way to work to hear the traffic report. I always hope (in vain) to find a route with zero traffic. It never happens, *sigh*.

The benefit to this ritual is that I regularly catch the news, which I would not otherwise do. A few weeks back, I was listening to a blurb between traffic reports about vintners rushing to pick all the grapes before the early rain and frost set in that weekend. What they weren’t able to harvest would be lost, so they had huge crews working around the clock to get the job done.

I read an interview with another vintner recently where he described sleeping at the winery when it was close to harvest time so that he was able to test the grapes around the clock and pick them at the exact right moment when they were perfectly balanced.

As I hear these stories, there are 2 things I know: 1, I don’t want to be a vintner and 2, timing is everything.

The crops are ready when they’re ready. The vintner can’t hasten their growth. He can’t choose a time that is convenient for the harvest. Their job is simply to watch, wait, and be ready to harvest when it is time.

But harvest is only one season of the year. If every season were harvest season, I imagine the burnout rate for farmers would be astronomical.

There is also a planting season. There is a season of cultivating young crops in anticipation of the harvest. There is a season where the plants are dormant and grow nothing. Some crops even require years where the fields lie fallow in order to become fertile again.

I co-teach a class on spiritual leadership at my church. In that class, I give an excursus on success in spiritual leadership. I broke down the heart of that lesson in the post “On Success” earlier this year. If I teach the class again (and I hope I do), I would add that success is determined by the season your church/ministry is in.

For instance, when it is harvest season, it is not wrong to expect numbers to grow. It is also normal that the staff pushes hard to do all of the work that is in front of them. There  is a lot to do that needs to be done now.

A season of cultivating young plants requires diligence and vigilance, but not a massive, exhausting push. A dormant season requires rest. Numbers won’t grow, but that doesn’t mean a church is outside of God’s will. Just as he has seasons for all other living things, God has seasons for his churches.

Leadership requires discerning the season of ministry that your church is in and leading in it.

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